Meet Louisiana's longest working civil servant Roland Babin, who may set Guinness record
When Roland Babin joined the Louisiana highway department in 1955 on a road construction crew, the Chevy Bel Air was the most popular ride, Bill Haley and His Comets were rocking around the clock and America liked Ike.
"I started as a rodman (setting up equipment) for $180 per month," Babin said. "I've loved every minute of it."
Babin, the longest-serving civil servant in Louisiana history, retired Thursday after 67 years and almost 25,000 days on the job.
He could have retired at full pay 37 years ago, but he wouldn't even knock off early on his last day on the job.
"Even on his last day I told him he could leave early, he looked at his watch and said, “I have nearly two hours to go; I get off at 4:30 (p.m.),” said Shawn Wilson, secretary of today's Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.
"Roland is the living legend," Wilson said. "When you look up the definition of extraordinary public servant, you will find a picture of Mr. Roland."
Babin, 85, may have also set a world record with his service.
The Guinness Book of World Records lists former Hampton, Va., city employee Hardy William Cash as the longest working civil servant with 63 years, 210 days on the job before retiring in 2012.
Babin, who lives in St. Martinville, said his friends and family are exploring how to pursue Guinness recognition.
"It's really mind-boggling, even to me, to have lasted this long," said Babin, who was hired during Gov. Robert Kennon's only term.
And Babin, who has four children, 11 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren, said he would have continued to work, but his body won't tolerate the heat on the road like it once did.
Babin retired as an Acadiana districtwide maintenance specialist, still on the road with crews spreading new smooth fresh layers of asphalt overlays, occasionally grabbing a broom or rake to work beside the younger men and women.
"I loved my years on maintenance with the hot mix because you get to see what you've accomplished after a good day's work; I love my crew," Babin said. "But my 60-year-old brain is telling my 85-year-old body it's time to go. To be honest, I can't believe it went by so fast."
Babin said he can't remember a bad day at work. He rarely took a day off and never took a week-long vacation, accumulating 12,000 hours in unused leave.
"My advice is if you like your job, keep at it," he said.
Babin is a past recipient of the Charles E. Dunbar, Jr. Career Civil Service Award, the highest honor for a Louisiana civil servant.
"Roland’s presence and sense of humor is contagious; I have never heard him speak anything but positivity with a huge smile," Wilson said. "It’s been eye-opening to see someone from his generation bridge the gap with a much younger and more transient workforce. He is respected and revered by those around him because of his seniority."
Babin actually first considered retiring in 2012, but his wife Georgean died unexpectedly.
"There was no way I was quitting after I lost her," he said.
Babin said he's not sure how he'll spend most of his retirement hours, "but I can tell you I'm not going to sit around the house."
And he concedes feeling apprehensive about a future that doesn't include work.
"This is my life; I'm going to miss it," Babin said. "The truth is I wish I was younger so I could work longer."
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1