Picayune utility worker retires after three decades on the job

Published 4:46 pm Wednesday, March 31, 2021

During his 38 years of reading Picayune city meters, Bill West has witnessed the work transform from hot and sweaty walks to read individual meters, to an electronic system that sped up the meter reading process.

Through it all he’s taken pride in his work and focused on giving 110 percent.

“When you love what you do, it makes all the world of difference,” said West.

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West’s coworkers celebrated his retirement Wednesday after 38 years of service.

“It’s a true honor and pleasure to have worked with someone with such an excellent work ethic,” said City Clerk Amber Hinton.

When West started his job, he learned to trick his mind, so he wouldn’t notice the heat as he read meters throughout the city. He made a game of memorizing names and addresses as he performed a vital service for the city.

Meter reading has changed in the past three decades. In 2011, the city of Picayune got automatic meter reading equipment, making it faster and easier for West to do his job. While once reading all the meters in the city took three weeks, with the installation of the AMRs the utility department could read meters across the city in four very long days, said West. Of course there was still plenty of work to do, with people moving into and out of homes needing water turned on and shut off, and trying to solve water issues and locate leaks.

One thing that hasn’t changed in West’s job is the opportunity to talk with people throughout the city.

“My favorite part of the job was working with the public. That’s what I loved the most is the people,” he said. “There are so many amazing people in this town.”

Utility Clerk Michel Ouder has known West since she was a little girl and her grandmother worked for the city.

“He’s like family. He is going to be missed,” she said.