Marty Flemion's first day as a Laurel city employee was Oct. 21, 1976.
Leaving behind a division manager position at Frank's Hardware, now a CVS pharmacy, Flemion says he accepted "a utility man" position, focusing on street maintenance and repairs.
Nearly 40 years later, hometown career is still strong, as the 60-year-old resident becomes the new city administrator under Mayor Craig Moe.
"At that time, I was not looking to make Laurel a career, but I wanted to scale the promotional ladder to get into the lower supervisor levels," Flemion said. "That's as far as I really wanted to go."
Sitting inside the Laurel Municipal Center, Flemion said he remembers the "shock" of his first day at the original public works facility behind the Laurel Rescue Squad.
"I was put on the back of a trash truck and I wasn't expecting that," he said. "The facility was very dilapidated [and] the trucks were very old. It took a little getting used to, but eventually, I did."
Flemion said as he worked with the crews each week — collecting refuse for two days and repairing street signs for three days — he formed strong bonds with his coworkers.
Two years later, Flemion added supervisory responsibilities to his resume after a promotion to public works foreman, and later head foreman in 1980 under former Mayor Robert DiPietro, tasked with replacing all 5,000 street signs within the city in a 10-month project to meet federal requirements that all signs be uniform.
"We touched them all," Flemion said. "The good thing was that I learned an awful lot about the city [and] I met a lot of residents out there. Some of them are still out there and I still talk to."
City facilities transformed around him, Flemion said, as public works moved to First Street and city hall to Sandy Spring Road in 1993. Meanwhile, Flemion rose up in the department, becoming project manager under Mayor Joseph Robinson.
"Years ago, I kept my teeth in the emergency management, fire and EMS field," Flemion said. "Having worked for the city that long, I had worked fairly closely with our Police Department and was knowledgeable of their operations."
But nothing prepared Flemion and the city for the national tragedy on Sept. 11, 2001. Flemion said his family was visiting relatives in Ohio when they heard that planes crashed into the World Trade Centers.
"We came back to a completely different environment. People were obviously shaken up," Flemion said. "After that event, it just didn't seem like anybody relaxed anymore. The environment was permanently changed."
Emergency management duties often fell into public works, he said, with department employees securing facilities as best they could, hoping to comfort residents. Flemion said the event struck a chord for Laurel after learning that some 9/11 perpetrators resided in the Valencia Motel off Route 1.
"While we couldn't stop something similar from happening, we were preparing for an event," he said. "The Police Department was ramping up its intelligence efforts, so we could at least try and intercept issues. That was a pretty emotional time."
Following Moe's mayoral election in 2003, Flemion was appointed deputy city administrator as well as director of emergency management, where he worked closely with former City Administrator Kristie Mills, who retired in December after a 45-year city career.
Flemion said working with Mills helped instill his dedication and love toward the city.
"I think she molded the employees of the city into what we call a family," Flemion said. "She was the glue that made that happen. …My whole career I've been very fortunate between who I was serving and who served me."
Flemion said he will miss working in emergency management, but feels confident in his successor, William Goddard, and continuing to work with Moe.
"I have all the faith in the world in Marty," Moe said. "He knows the city, he knows how it runs, he knows how to make a decision and, most importantly, he knows my vision for the community and is able to make sure that that's passed along to all the department heads and city staff."
Moving forward, Moe said Flemion will be reviewing all city departments in an effort to streamline, save money and provide better public service.
"He knows that I want people to come to city hall if they need help," Moe said. "That's pretty much the way governing should be done."
As a 55-year resident, Flemion said he has no worries about the city's future, with billions of dollars invested by the federal government, an increasing housing market as well as cyber command security measures at Fort Meade.
"The direction for Laurel right now is more solid than it ever has been," Flemion said. "I think we will be ready to meet the challenges of the future no matter what they are. I very much appreciate where Laurel has been, where we're at now and where we're going."