Gerald E. Knoll recalls when he walked in to interview for the position of public works superintendent in the Village of Hamburg.
Meeting in a little room with the mayor and trustees, he said, he was asked if he thought he could develop and operate a mandatory recycling program -- the first in the country.
Knoll said yes. That was in 1980. Knoll got the job and has since come to be known regionally and nationally for his efforts in municipal recycling -- as well as for his involvement in the village's disputes with residents when it started requiring clear plastic bags for garbage.
The Village Board accepted Knoll's resignation Monday night -- with regret. In fact, after the motion was read and the vote was called, there was silence at first before the board acknowledged the superintendent's wish to retire by voting.
Knoll was honored last week by the Northeast-Southtowns Solid Waste Management Board, which he helped found.
"The Village of Hamburg, under Gerry's direction, has been in the forefront of recycling efforts across New York State and in some cases across the United States," said Trustee Tom Tallman.
Knoll said that in addition to his recycling efforts, he's proud of his department's ability to maintain its services even as it has shrunk from 34 workers to 26 under his watch.
"We're still plowing our sidewalks," he said. "And the state did an audit of the Sanitation Department and showed not only are we cost-effective, but this is a way other communities could do it, provide service and save money. That's a high point for me personally."
Knoll, 63, will officially leave office March 2. He said he plans to retire to Florida.
"I'm not getting any younger, but I've got my health, and there are still things I want to do," Knoll said. "And I'll be closer to my family."
He said he has siblings in Florida, and his children are scattered across the country.
The board also received a report on construction activity for 2006 from Code Enforcement Officer Kurt Allen.
The town had $2.14 million in estimated construction, with 33,316 square feet built. Four new single-family homes were built.