Cedar Key Water and Sewer District Superintendent James McCain recently celebrated 30 years of service for that organization. In honor of his distinguished service, past and current Water District board members and employees gathered at the district office to fête McCain with punch and doughnuts and a collection of anecdotes detailing his dedicated work and excellent character.
Recently reelected board member Dottie Haldeman introduced McCain, saying, "James started at the Water District when he was just a kid in high school. He's worked for a lot of people over the years, and now Cedar Key is blessed to have him as our superintendent."
Kathleen Baker, one of the District's original board members and McCain's first supervisor, presented him with a handsome plaque and thanked him for his fortitude.
McCain recalled his early days at the District.
"I started here part time when I was a junior in high school," he said. "I thought I knew everything. My first two years here, I thought Ms. Kathleen hated me, but I learned. One day I'd mess up, the next day I'd do right, and she'd be right behind me whichever way I went."
McCain said in high school he hadn't begun to contemplate a career, but only knew one thing: "I said I wanted to stay home and that's what I did. I've been very lucky to get to stay here in my home and raise my family."
He thanked his wife Kathy and mother Thelma and credited the supervisors around him who treated him as family as he was growing up on the job. Thelma McCain related a story of her attendance with James to an out-of-town conference when he made a comment she considered inappropriate and she slapped him.
Another board member came to the rescue, stage-whispering to the other conference-goers, "It's all right - she's his mama."
Mayor Paul Oliver presented a certificate from the City of Cedar Key and said when he first took office, he was warned about the difficulty of dealing with the water district.
"Every time a problem came up, I always went to James," he said. "Whatever it was, he would fix it with a smile on his face, and eventually I came to feel the same way about the other district employees."
Water district employee Neil Doty, who runs the pretreatment plant, among other duties, said of McCain, "We couldn't have a better person to work for. He's a family man and he treats us all like family."
Everyone in the room had a testimonial to McCain's willingness and attention to detail.
Assistant Fire Chief James Robinson and City Commissioner Sue Colson noted McCain's dedication to his duties for the fire department, as well as his contribution to local culture in the years he played Santa Claus ("Until I outgrew the suit," McCain joked). Joe Hatin mentioned that when he (Hatin) was housebound a decade ago from cancer treatments, McCain's sons voluntarily performed many needed home repairs that would otherwise have gone undone.
Kathy McCain noted that during one period when the water district was understaffed, James was so busy that for more than a year he literally ventured no further east than the well site on State Road 24, just off Cedar Key.
The speechmaking would have gone on, but McCain, uncomfortable with the attention, directed attendees' notice to the doughnuts on the table. He was toasted by a grateful crowd with Hawaiian Punch and pastries.