Longtime Luverne city engineer retires

Published 3:48 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2019

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After decades of service at the state, county and city level, and 25 years with Luverne, city engineer Morris Tate has retired.

Mayor Ed Beasley and the city council hosted a retirement party for Tate in the council chambers last Friday, and friends, family and colleagues gathered to wish him well.

Tate said his years as an engineer both in the public and private sectors have been fulfilling.

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Tate first attended Troy University before transferring to Auburn.

While there, he worked full time in a training program with the state Highway Department.

Around the same time he married his wife, Ann, and they had their first son.

“I was working 30 to 35 hours a week while taking a full course load. My oldest son Josh didn’t really know me at that time. But I had mapped out pretty well what I wanted to do,” Tate recalls.

From there, the family moved to Millbrook as Tate continued working with the Highway Dept. on various projects.

After years with the state, he heard mention that the Crenshaw County engineer position was available while attending a family reunion in his hometown, Glenwood.

“I thought my career would always be with the state. On the way back to Montgomery I mentioned to my wife that if something would work out, what would you think of moving to Luvere? And God opened another door, so for 18 and a half years I was the county engineer here,” he said.

Tate says working with the county allowed him to undertake a variety of projects and be involved at every phase.

“[As a county/city engineer] you have the opportunity to see things that need to be done and do them. You get to design a project, see it constructed and maintain it. Most engineers specialize in a specific field like design or construction, but working for a city or county you get to be hands on with all aspects of it,” he explained.

Tate said the most memorable moments of his time with the county include the mid-80’s move to organizing the Highway Dept. by a unit rather than a district system, which centralized the department and allowed for more organized construction and maintenance projects.

He also fondly recalled forming a bridge crew to repair and maintain county bridges, improving the upkeep of and paving dirt roads and working to acquire grants for the department.

After his years with the county, Tate retired and formed a private business called JWM Engineering, named from the first initials of his three sons’ names (Jim, Will and Matt).

In the same time period, Tate also accepted a contract through JWM to serve as the city of Luverne’s engineer.

“The mayor at that time was John Harrison, and he contacted me about fulfilling an engineering management position with the city, to manage the different departments. And I said ‘sure,’” Tate said.

Tate went on to spend the last 25 years working with the city of Luverne.

He said one of his most memorable projects with the city was the extending of sewage services to all citizens of Luverne in the early 1990’s.

The department combined a CDBG grant and a USDA grant and loan to fund the large project.

“At that time everyone didn’t have equal services… We were able to extend the sewer lines and install 12 to 14 pumping stations. Everyone in the incorporated city limits at that time received the water and sewage services,” Tate recalled.

With JWM, Tate and his crews designed and installed services for subdivisions and apartment complexes across the area, including Greenville, Troy and Andalusia.

He said that his favorite part of the job was generally construction; “it gets in your blood;” and that bridge construction and maintenance was always fulfilling and complex work.

As for his retirement, Tate plans to spend much of his time traveling with his wife and family.

He and Ann plan to begin by visiting the few U.S. states they have not made it to yet.

Looking back at his career, Tate expressed gratitude at the opportunity to make his career in Crenshaw County.

He graduated from Luverne High School and played under Coach Glen Daniel, saw two of his sons go on to play for Daniel and now has grandchildren attending the school.

He also said he believes his replacement as city engineer, Michelle Royals, is a great fit for the job.

“I knew her Dad; he worked with me when I was county engineer… I’ve known her since she was born. She’ll do a good job for them. It’s time for me to move on and just fish and hunt,” Tate said.