When Peter Kofod walked through the doors of Wollongong City Council as a fresh-faced civil engineering cadet in 1977, he barely knew what a civil engineer did and didn't expect to stick around long.
Yesterday, he finished up as director of infrastructure and works after 36 years on the job.
Mr Kofod applied for the council cadetship straight out of high school at the behest of his father, who thought it "wouldn't be a bad job".
"On my first day, I remember wearing 'office clothes' - so a long-sleeved shirt and tie - and going in to a room that was [cigarette] smoke-filled where there were staff drafting and drawing plans," he said. "When I arrived, people were manually drawing engineering plans with ink pens and drawing boards, and that used to take weeks, whereas these days that same production is done within days."
From these humble beginnings, where he was paid a wage of $127.85 per week, Mr Kofod moved up the council's engineering ranks and was appointed manager of design in 1993.
In 2007, he became executive manager of governance and planning and then took up his latest role in 2008.
"As a trainee and young engineer, I definitely intended to move to different jobs and challenges but it just happened that I was able to get them here," he said.
Looking back as he cleaned out his desk and finished odd jobs on his final day yesterday, Mr Kofod said he was most proud of his work during and after the 1998 Wollongong floods and his recent efforts to help build vital infrastructure for West Dapto.
"The flood was pretty devastating across the city, particularly the northern suburbs, and I had a key role in the fallout of that," he said. "And the other big thing is finally seeing West Dapto take off.
"There's roads and bridges being built out there now that have been talked about for a long time, so to see that under way is a great outcome."
Mr Kofod also stayed with the council through its darkest times, when the organisation made headlines over its sex scandals and corruption allegations.
"There's no doubt about it, that was a challenging time," Mr Kofod said. "The period is well documented and really, the focus for me was to put it behind us and work with my staff to go forward."
After sticking with the council through thick and thin, Mr Kofod made the difficult decision not to renew his contract this year.
"I thought I would leave at a high point and look for some new challenges," he said.
Although yet to decide on those challenges, he planned to spend a few months pursuing his passion for surfing and scuba diving.