EARLY — Ken Thomas crouched to read the inscription on a mantlepiece Early Mayor Bob Mangrum had just presented to him on behalf of the city.

“A city is not gauged by its length and width but the by broadness of its vision and the height of its dreams,” Thomas read aloud.

“That’s Early,” Thomas said.

Mangrum presented the mantlepiece to Thomas, who is retiring after 27 years as city administrator, Friday afternoon during a reception in Thomas’ honor Friday afternoon at City Hall. Thomas’ last day on the job is Dec. 31.

Friends and colleagues plied Thomas with accolades as they helped him commemorate the end of a fine career in city government.

Thomas’ “27-plus years is really a phenomenal thing,” Mangrum said. “So what can we say, other than … we’re definitely going to miss having you up here.”

Router and Brownwood City Manager Bobby Rountree were football teammates at Goldthwaite High School in the 1960s. The life of a city manager is typically about four years, Rountree said, and Thomas’ lengthy tenure “speaks well of Kens’ ability to do the job he was hired to do. … there’s something to be said for a city manager who leaves because he wants to.”

Dealing with elected officials, Rountree said, “is an art in itself.”

Thomas said Early has been a unique city, with growth that’s been “steady” rather than tremendous. Thomas said representatives of companies or agencies including Oncor,  Atmos and the Texas Department of Public Safety have been helpful.

“It’s been extra special to say I have been here this time with the City of Early,” Thomas said. 

Thomas, a Goldthwaite native, served in the Army and once spent some of his leave time helping lay sewer lines for the city. After leaving the Army, Thomas worked at the Ross Company in Early, serving for three terms on the Early City Council.

Thomas left the council to take a new job — city administrator. 

"My father-in-law was water superintendent here," Thomas said in an earlier interview. "That's probably where I got started in (city work)."