For 22 years, Arthur Mumford has kept Columbia going.
As supervisor of building maintenance for the Columbia Association, Mumford's primary responsibilities was to make sure everything worked in Columbia's village and neighborhood centers.
On Thursday, he will make his last commute to his Capitol Heightshouse.
"We're certainly going to miss him, because Arthur knows where everything is in this building. If anything goes wrong, you'd always call him," said Ruth Bohse, manager of the Owen Brown village association.
At the Stevens Forest Cooperative Nursery, the childrenstill hear of "the day Mr. Mumford was here and scared the mice," said teacher's aide Cecelia Spaulding.
Mumford, 62, said that one ofthe things he liked best about his job was going to neighborhood centers to replace a fluorescent tube, fix a faucet or restore the heat for the preschool classes.
"The kids are pretty smart, and they come over and try to help me with things," Mumford said.
A large group of well-wishers is expected at his retirement party at 3 p.m. Thursday -- his last day -- at the Center for Arts in Stonehouse in the Long Reach village center.
He could always count on his staff of one -- himself. Since the mid-1970s, he has served all of the Columbia Association's facilities that don't have a maintenance staff of theirown.
That has kept him in constant transit among 26 buildings. His white van is full of used doorknobs and old thermostats. Cubby holes harbor lubricants, spray paint, light bulbs, piping, wiring, tools and rubber boots.
A few years after he started in April 1970, Mumford supervised a staff of two, "one taking care of this side of (Route) 29 and the other taking care of the other side of 29." They were responsible for Columbia's athletic facilities and neighborhood pools,which now have their own maintenance workers.
"Whenever he went on vacation, we always prayed that nothing went wrong because there was no one to back him up," Bohse said.
Mumford said that he will sell his house in Prince George's County and live in his family home inGoldsboro, N.C. He is divorced, but his sister and 83-year-old mother live in Goldsboro.
James W. Rouse is likely to remember Mumford every time he sees the plaque bearing his name affixed to a boulder next to the waters of Wilde Lake. Mumford cemented that plaque in place for Columbia's 10th birthday in 1977.
As for the town that Rousecreated, Mumford is impressed.
"It's such a great mixture of people and ideas. It really works well."
Now Mumford's own name has become part of the Columbia landscape. The staff of the Oakland Mills village association purchased a paver bearing his name that was laid into the plaza below Columbia's People Tree sculpture in Town Center.
Mumford can rattle off all the specific procedures for fixing things in Columbia. But perhaps one of the reasons he is so appreciated is that he understands that getting things fixed is sometimes more important than protocol.
If a building was without heat, he'd tell people to just call the garage he worked out of and he'd be right there.
It raised a few eyebrows, but it warmed more than a few hearts.