City Engineer Steve Hargis looks back at his 32 years of service with Rolla, and he wonders where time has gone.

Hargis, 56, said he has no plans for retirement, “although some day he probably will,” saying retirement is a long way off.

City Engineer Steve Hargis looks back at his 32 years of service with Rolla, and he wonders where time has gone.

Hargis, 56, said he has no plans for retirement, “although some day he probably will,” saying retirement is a long way off.

For Hargis, who supervises 43 people in the Public Works Department that includes the Engineering, Wastewater and Street departments, there still is much work to be done.

“We’ve still got some things to do, the Ridgeview Extension and others. This city has grown and prospered so much in the last 10 years, it’s unbelievable. If the next 10 years are like the last, it’ll be quite a metamorphosis,” Hargis said. “A lot of what we’re doing now is keeping up with that growth.”

Hargis also is proud of his Rolla roots, having attended a one-room schoolhouse near Vida that had a single teacher for about 10 students in grades first through sixth.

“It was pretty humble. We had a wood stove and an outhouse,” Hargis recalls.

A 1971 graduate of Rolla High School, Hargis left Rolla for the big-city lights of St. Louis where he attended a technical school and worked part-time as a cook for Howard Johnson’s restaurant before he got his first engineering-related job.

“I remember I was making pretty good money working as a cook at Howard Johnson’s, but then I got a job with an engineering firm for even less money,” Hargis recalled. “I made less money, and I?had to start paying for my meals, but I took it anyway.”

It wasn’t long before Hargis longed for Rolla and elected to come back to central Missouri.

“They offered me a 10-cent raise. I turned it down, and I quit to come back to Rolla,” Hargis said.

That was 1974, and Hargis enrolled at the University of Missouri-Rolla’s civil engineering program as a part-time student.

“I was doing what I could before getting hired on by the city on Oct. 19, 1976,” Hargis recalled. “I started working for the city nearly full-time while I was going to (college) part-time.

“Eleven years later — in 1985 — I?graduated from the UMR, the best engineering college in the country,” Hargis bragged.

Along the way, Hargis proved himself in the Public Works Department, being named assistant department head in 1979 and in 1985, after he got his civil-engineering degree he was named interim director and the next year he was named director.

“It was a long way to come,” Hargis joked seated behind his desk Thursday afternoon on the fourth floor of City Hall.

Hargis’ office is unpretentious, only hinting of engineering. There are no complex structural models and engineering marvels.

Instead, it’s filled with personal affects — family photos of his three grown children with spouses and grandchildren. There’s even a large color, poster-size photograph of Hargis holding a 50-plus pound black drum he caught in off the coast of Houston, Texas.

“I had a 14-pound test line with a steel leader and crab meat as bait,” Hargis recalled. “I must’ve battled that thing for 45 minutes. They’re protected, so you couldn’t keep it, but I got the photo.”

Besides fishing, Hargis enjoys camping and the outdoors.

“We used to do a lot of camping, and I guess I still do a little. We were river rats. We — some of my buddies — would camp all times of the year. We used to camp between Christmas and New Year’s, any time of the year. The weather didn’t matter,” he said.

Hargis recalled one instance he was canoeing out on a lake with friends when it was minus-16 degrees.

“I?know (the park ranger) thought we must’ve died out there,” Hargis said. “I think he had every bit of clothing on he must’ve owned to come and look for us. We were never so happy to get back,” Hargis said.

Nowadays, Hargis said he does less camping and spends more time with his wife, Tracy, and their children and grandchildren at their ranch home out of F Highway.

“Tracy’s the horse enthusiast,” Hargis said. “I just do the odd jobs.”
The Hargises, who have been married since 1994, own Royal T Ranch and with it “about half a dozen horses,” Hargis said. “We probably board about 25. My wife teaches (horsemanship), not the western style, so much.”

Family is important to Hargis.

Friday afternoon, Hargis took his youngest son, 10-year-old John Michael, to “the best zoo in the country, referring to the St. Louis Zoo.

The other Hargis children include his eldest, Jason, 36; Erica, 34; and Marisa, 29. They also have three grandchildren.

“I’m really a home-body now,” said Hargis, who like many baby-boomers has lost weight on the urging of his physician.

“I’ve been battling it (weight) all my life,” said Hargis, whose loss now totals 56 pounds. “I’ve been up and down all my life, but I had to get serious about it,” Hargis said hinting it was something Tracy wanted him to accomplish.

“I’ve got a wonderful wife. I just fell head over heels in love when we met,” Hargis said. “I met her because my daughter was horse crazy — she was boarding her horse there,” Hargis said of the ranch. “We met and were married in about a month.”

Hargis gives the distinct impression he loves his job, and he sees himself as a conduit to improve infrastructure in Rolla for all its citizens.

“There’s so much we can do here. Ridgeview Extension is going to happen. It may be a city project, but it’ll happen and so will Rolla West. These are things that will improve the quality of life for Rolla residents.”