Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 22, 2006
Selma Water Works and Sewer Board commends 30 years of service
By Victor Inge
The Selma Times-Journal
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William “Billy” Hicks is taking it easy these days.
Hicks, now retired and recuperating from a stroke and surgery, received honors this week from the Selma Water Works and Sewer Board. A plaque presented to him was blue, which signified good clean water. Its inscription said it all: For 30 Years of Service.
For three decades Hicks tried to make good on the Selma Water Works’ slogan: The cheapest drink in town. Thirty years later Hicks has stepped aside, but he says Selma still has the cheapest drink in town, despite a recent 30 percent rate increase.
These days it’s lots of TV, mostly the Andy Griffith Show and The Price is Right.
And then there’s Alabama Crimson Tide football every Saturday.
“I’m an Alabama fan. Everybody knows that,” Hicks said. “(Mike) Shula’s a good coach. I think they’re doing good.”
Hicks said time brings on a change. His real estate company was sold, and the reigns of the water authority have changed hands. From his home in the Castlewood community, he recalled a similar change 30 years ago.
Edwin T. Hicks, served on the water board. When his father died he wanted to be of service.
“My dad died, and Joe (Smitherman) wanted to keep paying my mother,” Hicks recalled. “I didn’t think that would be right, so I talked to Joe and told him I would serve. So, I took over. We had one of the best operations in the state.”
Hicks served as secretary-treasurer in his first term on the board. He also had a thriving real estate business. His wife, Elizabeth, ran the business. They have six children and 14 grand children.
“She used to take care of the real estate office, now she’s taking care of me,” Hicks said.
During his tenure at the Water Works, Hicks and his colleagues had to manage a pumping station that was aging. They also built a sewer treatment plant. Most of his friends are also retired.
“Jack (Chandler) and Robert (Bridges) come by here all the time,” Hicks said. “Our main plant is still running. It’s over 100 years old.”
Hicks helped to modernize the water and sewer plants, which included monitoring water levels in the city tanks by computer. Before that, Hicks said each tank had a gauge on it.
“They had old time machinery,” Hicks said. “I would tell Joe what we needed and he would tell me, ‘You handle it.'”
Hicks said the change in administrations didn’t mean much, it was just change. Some do well with change, others don’t, he said.
“I told (James) Perkins, I said, ‘This is your town now. I advise you to learn about this and you’ve got to have good people who know what they’re doing,'” Hicks said. “Jack retired after 32 years, but we got Jack back and he was a big help to us. He was the one who knows where all the pipes were.”
Hicks said he always kept up with Alabama Department of Environmental Management rules and laws, which regulates the industry. Hicks was a founding member of the Alabama Water & Waste Water Industrial Authority, which all the larger water authorities in the state belong. He’s also made lots of friends in Alabama and Mississippi through the American Water Authority Association.
“You have to keep up with the times,” Hicks said. “If you don’t, it’ll pass you right on by.”
Johnnie Leashore, the board’s vice chairman, has conducted the business of the SWSB in Hicks’ absence. Leashore and 10-year employee Marvin Maul presented Hicks with the plaque, and a resolution honoring his years of service on the board.
“The water works and sewer board is solvent and financially sound,” Leashore said. “More capital improvements are needed, but that’s a result of time. Time changes things.”