And to City Secretary Tomas P. Saenz, it was just enough time to hold the same job and a good time to start collecting a hard-earned pension.
So on Friday at 5 p.m., Saenz retired, stepping out from behind his desk at City Hall for the last time as one of Beeville’s top city staff members.
During Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, Mayor Santiago “Jimbo” Martinez signed a proclamation making that “Tomas P. Saenz Day” in Beeville.
Martinez and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Scotten both joked that they were toddlers when Saenz signed on as the city secretary on Aug. 6, 1969.
“The city gave me my life,” Saenz said as numerous family members looked on from the audience.
He thanked all city employees he had worked with over the years, from those who worked outside City Hall to those who staffed the offices.
“You all made my life,” Saenz said.
Former council member and mayor pro tem John Longoria was in the council chamber at the time, and he rose to speak in Saenz’s behalf.
“I was 24, I might have been 25,” Longoria said, when he first walked through City Hall as a council member, Longoria said.
He remembered the day back in 1984, that he joined City Manager Joe B. Montez, former Mayor John Ybanez and the late Jesse T. DeRusse, who was mayor at the time, during a meeting at the Drummers Inn to plan a run for the City Council.
He said he and the others had to call Saenz at his house to make arrangements to file for a position on the ballot, and Saenz agreed to meet him later that night at City Hall.
Councilman David Carabajal called Saenz an asset to the community and a good friend.
Councilman John Fulghum said that he will soon have served 20 years on the council, almost half of the time that Saenz has held his job. Fulghum told those at the meeting that Saenz had always “been on top of things.”
City Attorney Frank Warner said he has held his own position 21 years, making his tenure half of the time Saenz has worked at City Hall.
Warner said when he took the city attorney’s job in 1990, he had held the position just 10 days when he was told the council would be holding a recall election. It was the first such election anyone could remember.
Warner said he was on the telephone with Saenz being informed of the upcoming recall, and he overheard Saenz telling someone else, “I have a baby city attorney.”
Saenz laughed and asked, “You heard that?”
Warner chuckled and admitted that Saenz had coached him a lot during the last two decades.
Saenz will not be sitting at home whiling away the hours.
But he might be seen riding off into the setting sun many times on his 21st century version of a noble steed.
Saenz and his wife, Irma, are avid motorcycle enthusiasts, who have traveled much of the country together over the years.
Saenz has told friends that he and Irma plan to put a lot more miles on his Harley-Davidson in the years to come.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.