Retiring public works director leaves his mark on Clarendon Hills
John Hays retired Sept. 7 after working for 39 years in the Clarendon Hills Public Works Department. | Chuck Fieldman—Sun-Times Media
Name: John Hays
Hobbies: playing golf, traveling
Favorite places visited: anywhere on an ocean
Wants to visit: Ireland
Favorite TV show: Andy Griffith
Updated: October 14, 2012 12:17PM
CLARENDON HILLS — A change in plans lasted more than 35 years for John Hays.
And the longtime Clarendon Hills public works director took some history with him when he retired Sept. 7.
Hays, 58, has a history in Clarendon Hills that goes beyond 39 years with the Public Works Department, including the last 24 as director. Hays grew up in Clarendon Hills, graduated from Hinsdale Central in 1972 and took his first village job in 1971 with the Fire Department, becoming its first emergency medical technician.
A seasonal job in public works from 1973-76 provided employment while he attended college at North Central College in Naperville. That seasonal work also led to Hays’ change in plans.
“I went to college for biology and psychology,” Hays said. “I wasn’t sure after getting my bachelor’s degree what direction I was going. I had no intentions of continuing here, but it grew on me. It just seemed right. I enjoyed the variety with my job here, and I was dabbling in forestry, which was an interest of mine. I enjoyed working outside and building things.”
Hays accepted an offer of full-time work in 1976. He was appointed public works supervisor in 1980, before becoming director eight years later.
“I had thought about continuing my education in something related to electronics and moving to Arizona,” Hays said. “I saw a lot of opportunities to do a lot here, and I knew a lot of people in the community, so I stayed.”
Much has changed over the 39 years.
“Funds were very, very scarce in the 70’s and 80’s, “ he said. “Before we got Lake Michigan water in 1992, we had a well and our own water-softening plant, which was a major operation in itself.”
Even after making sure the quality of water was up to snuff for Clarendon Hills residents no longer was directly his responsibility, Hays kept plenty busy being in-charge of snow removal, forestry, road and sewer improvements, sidewalks and public buildings.
Hays also managed the village’s efforts in battling Dutch elm disease and emerald ash borer. He assisted in the development of the first comprehensive tree inventory in 2007, which identified the species and condition of Clarendon Hills’ more than 5,000 public trees.
Hays worked to install an automated water utility system that has helped the department to better monitor the flow and condition of the village’s water mains and to more quickly identify water main breaks. Hays also developed and implemented the first automatic water meter reading system for Clarendon Hills in 1991.
“I always liked the planning and implementing to get things done,” he said.
And Clarendon Hills will miss John Hays.
“Few people have had as much of an impact in making Clarendon Hills what it is today as John,” Village President Tom Karaba said. “John has literally helped to rebuild our community over the last 41 years.”