CHIPLEY — It had been a week of good-byes for Roger Hagan, but Tuesday’s farewell to the Washington County Board of County Commissioners was obviously an emotional one for the longtime public servant.
“For 36 years I have not had a job, I have had a privilege, an honor,” Hagan said. “I will try and answer any questions you might have for me, but will spend most of my time saying “thank you” for the wonderful opportunity that has been afforded me to serve our great county these many years.
Hagan is retiring as the county’s Emergency Management director, but he has also served as county administrator and interim administrator during his more than three decades as a public servant. A native of Wausau, also retired last week as town council member and mayor, having served in town government for 24 years.
“On Feb. 2, 1977, I borrowed a suit and met the board for the first time for my interview,” Hagan said. “That morning Sheriff Fred Peel stood on the stair landing of the second floor of the Washington County Courthouse and cried out the notice, ‘Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye the Board of County Commissioners in and for Washington County is now in session.’ From that moment I was hooked.”
Hagan said even after all this time, the bailiff’s cry still excites him. “I only wish today we did it with the same decorum as we did in the past. For in that proclamation we hear the call to participate in our system of government where the authority of the governing is derived from the consent of the governed.” He added that if he were to ever write his memoirs, “I can’t think of a better title than, ‘Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Hear Ye.’”
Hagan said he was born in a house that had neither electricity nor indoor plumbing until he was four years old. After living in Panama City for two years, Hagan’s father acquired Hagan’s great-grandfather’s old farmhouse and the family moved back to Wausau. “Until I was in high school we had neither a telephone nor indoor plumbing, although REA had brought electricity to the rural countryside.”
During his career, Hagan said he has worked for 18 configurations of the Board of County Commissioners, including 29 men and one woman. He has also worked with four clerks of court, three county judges, three sheriffs, three property appraisers and two tax collectors.
“Beside the years I served as county manager, I have also served under three county managers. I have served under the administrations of six presidents and nine governors. Does it get any better than that?”
Hagan noted that while one of his first projects with the county was to work with Sheriff Peel to try and prove there were about 12,000 residents in Washington County, the latest census estimates the population at just under 25,000. “I don’t think it will take another 36 years before we double again,” he said.
“When I see 25,000 people, I am consciously aware these are not our children and grandchildren being married, raising their families, and staying here. It is people who have chosen to make our county their home. I don’t blame them for wanting to come here,” Hagan said. “I have chosen many times not to leave.”
Hagan said he did not want to retire, but felt it was time for him to retire. “My wife’s health is fragile, she recently lost her mother to cancer and my mother needs more attention,” he said. “Perhaps more than any of that, I realize my value to the county now is more historical than productive.”
Hagan said he hoped to be missed more and longer than he thought he would be. “I have heard you can only fish so much. I want to find out how much that is,” he said. “Maybe some church will need a Pastor that has a few years and a few sermons left.”
He also said he might one day seek elected office.
“Then too, as everyone knows, I have long desired to be a County Commissioner. Who knows? Perhaps I will be abe to serve our county again — from your side of the table,” Hagan said. “Could it get any better than that?”