Retiring plant director always ready to lend a hand

Published on: February 27, 2023
Billy Harris smiles an crosses his arms in a portrait..
"I don't have any plans," says Billy Harris of his impending retirement. "My wife retired four years ago and says she'll have plenty for me to do."

Got a busted water pipe? Call Billy Harris.

Air conditioning on the fritz? Call Billy.

Need someone to oversee the renovation of a building? Yes, call Billy.

Harris appears to be a behind-the-scenes type of guy, spending many working hours in his office, out of sight. He returns a ton of phone calls and wrestles with stacks of paperwork.

But when he gets the "something's broke" calls or Guilford Technical Community College needs someone to handle the big building projects, he leaves his desk to lead or lend a hand to the more than 100 people who work under him. There's little on any of GTCC's properties that doesn't fall under him.

But, after March 10, those calls will go to someone else. Harris will end his eight-year tenure as GTCC's director of physical plant, marking 12 years total employment at the college.

At 63, he figures it's time to put down the phone and push the papers aside.

"I don't have any plans. My wife retired four years ago and says she'll have plenty for me to do," he said with a laugh.

First up, there's a trip planned to Honduras in April.

"My wife and I like to travel," Harris said. "We've been to a lot of Central American countries and in the Caribbean."

There are also the handful of hobbies Harris has that he hasn't had time to properly pursue.

"I'm kind of an amateur photographer. I have a telescope and take pictures in the sky at night," he said. "I have a woodworking shop. I build furniture and all sorts of things. I've got plenty of interests outside of work."

Harris became familiar with GTCC before joining as an employee. In 1983  he was a student, earning an associate degree in civil engineering.

His college career began at Clemson, but after two years there, his parents moved back to Greensboro and Harris followed.

"My parents moved up to Greensboro and I went to work in construction for a year or so," said Harris, who has lived in Greensboro ever since. "Then I decided I wanted to get into construction management and in June of 1983, I got a civil engineering degree from GTCC."

Harris spent most of his career in the private sector, heading up construction projects throughout the area until he decided to make the move to GTCC a dozen years ago. He began as a construction project coordinator for the college and, after about three years, moved into his present position.

The scope of the director of physical plant is rather large, including managing all of GTCC's grounds, maintaining all electrical and HVAC systems, providing general maintenance across all five campuses, managing the college's fleet of vehicles, and overseeing many construction projects.

Harris has four managers to help keep things moving efficiently, but he has always insisted on being very hands-on.

"I keep my office phone forwarded to my cell phone, so when things go wrong, I can go out, look at them and help get them fixed."

He would much rather be out on a job site than in his office working his way through necessary paperwork every day.

"There's lots of paperwork. We have to work with all the building inspection departments, the fire marshals, the city water and sewer people, the power people, and the gas companies. We take care of all the utilities, all of that comes through my department," Harris explained.

That all will soon be behind him with beautiful Central American beaches, starry nights through his telescope, and of course, his wife's honey-do list in front of him.

Back to All Articles