JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — Washington County, Tennessee’s road superintendent has served the county highway department for 40 years total, 30 years spent in the department’s top seat.
After being appointed eight times to serve as road superintendent, serving alongside three county mayors and nine county commissions, John Deakins has decided to hang up his hat and retire.
Deakins has no doubt played an integral role in keeping Washington County roads safe for decades.
He says he has done every job at the county highway department except operate the paving machine.
“I’ve really enjoyed working for Washington County. It’s just been a privilege and an honor to do this for 30 years,” said Deakins.
Deakins has brought much improvement to the department since taking it over in the 90s.
He purchased the department’s first computers and diesel dump trucks.
“We just kept improving and basically coming into the 21st century. Now, we’ve probably got as good or better equipment than any highway department in the state,” he said.
Highway progress is a Deakins family affair.
When John Deakins took over the highway department he replaced his own father, John Deakins Sr., who served in the role for 10 years.
“Yeah, I learned a lot. He was a good teacher. He knew how to get your attention,” Deakins said with a laugh.
Deakins Sr. hired his son to be a mechanic with the department in 1983. The rest is history and hard work.
“I’ve just kind of worked my way up through the ranks. I don’t know if you’ve ever worked with your father, but he expects more out of you than he does anyone else.”
Deakins credits his father’s innovation and his own drive to turning the department into somewhere multiple employees have stayed for decades.
“When I came here, the highway department was basically the last place you would come to get a job,” he said.
As for his proudest accomplishment?
“That was leasing the Locust Mountain quarry. Getting out of the businesses where equipment self destructs. It was just costing us a fortune to manufacture rock,” said Deakins. “If we hadn’t leased the quarry at that time it was going to cost about $1.2 million to upgrade the quarry to be able to make state-certified stone.”
He is also proud of increasing the pay scale for employees to $15 dollars an hour.
Deakins believes he is in the business of saving, not making, money and his goal has always been to take care of the taxpayers by keeping their roads in good shape.
“I think we’ve got the best roads and one of the best departments in the state. We just have good people. The employees are the backbone of the highway department,” he said.
When it comes to his decision to retire, Deakins says after losing several friends to COVID-19 and his mother’s passing, it was time to focus on family.
“I just figured it was a good time to hang it up. I farm and build houses with my son. I’ve got plenty to do. Of course, my wife’s got a ‘honey do’ list about three and a half feet long so I think I’ll stay pretty busy,” Deakins said.
Deakins told News Channel 11 his appointed replacement is Richard Thompson, who also has nearly 45 years of experience in the highway department.
Deakins’ last day is May 31.