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They were called "The Three Amigos."

Larry Benz, Larry Bishop and Cliff Lepper spent 25 years together working at the Cole County Public Works Department.

Benz and Bishop retired as public works director and road supervisor at the beginning of this month.

At the beginning of next month, Lepper will also retire.

"We went through a lot together, but we managed to get the job done," Lepper said.

Lepper worked at the department for 32 years, starting as a road grader operator. For the last 26 years, he has been the assistant road supervisor for the county. Not only did Lepper do snow removal, but he was also in charge of putting together bids for equipment and materials used on the roads.

"I was also involved in employee evaluations, and that was some of the hardest stuff to do," Lepper said. "It's tough trying to determine who gets a raise or not. Then you have to go through the budget and try to find the money to get the equipment you need. That's gotten tougher every year, but we've done the best we can."

Looking back on his time at the department, Lepper said 1995 stands out. Not only was that the first year he and Bishop were in charge of road maintenance, but they had to go through two major events.

In January 1995, the Cole County had a two-day snowfall where more than 20 inches fell.

Then, in May 1995, heavy rains hit — and by May 19, the Missouri River crested at 33.5 feet with floodwater inundating many locations in the county.

"We got an education really quick when we had to go through those two," Lepper laughed. "The snow removal is the biggest thing we do that takes you away from your family. It can be hard because you'd rather be with them than out on the roads, but your job is to help the public so you've got to get out there."

Lepper said the longest the county has had operators stay in their trucks is 16 hours, but when the 1995 storm hit there was one day he spent 24 hours doing snow removal.

"That was pretty trying, and I was a lot younger back then," he said. "We stopped doing that. We like to try and give drivers a break so they can get a little rest before having to go back out. We have to work until the roads are clear again."

When it looked like a storm was going to coming in, Lepper said, he and Bishop would take turns getting up in the middle of the night to check on the storm's progress.

"We did that the last 10-15 years," he said. "He'd get up at midnight, and then I'd get up at 1 a.m. That wears on you after a while."

Lepper said not being around the road crews and public works staff every day is what he'll miss the most after his retirement.

"Several of us do go fishing together, so hopefully we'll be able to keep that up," Lepper said. "My wife and I hope to travel so we can see all 50 states, and I've got eight grandkids to fish and play with — just try to kick back and enjoy life."

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