What started as a "temporary" job transitioned into a 40-year career for Eric Thompson.
Since the mid-70s, Thompson has served as founder and CEO of Prospect, Inc., which works to help people with disabilities become independent.
However, all good things must come to an end. On Friday, July 1, Thompson announced to his staff that he would be retiring from the position at the end of the month.
"I've been thinking about it for a couple of years. I just decided that it is a good time to retire," he told The Wilson Post. "I've worked with a lot of great people, helped a lot of young children become more self-sufficient and many adults find jobs and live independently. I've been there for 40 years. It is just time to move on and maybe take it easy for a while."
According to Prospect's website, in the late 1960s a group of concerned parents established a program for people with disabilities in Lebanon. The program was chartered as the Wilson County Vocational Center and moved operations into the old post office building located on East Main Street. The budget consisted primarily of a small grant obtained through the Tennessee Department of Mental Health.
At the end of the grant period, a new agency - now known as Prospect - was established by Thompson.
"When I took the job it was a small program, and the funding ran out. I had contacts with the state government, and that was the beginning of Prospect," Thompson explained. "It gave me an understanding of the needs of this population."
Thompson said that the mission of Prospect is two-fold.
It gives children and adults with disabilities the opportunities to live a more productive life while providing a positive impact on the economy by reducing the tax burden.
"It is an investment in people and also a sound economic investment," he said.
Thompson added the Prospect Inc. board will oversee the search for a new CEO.
"I have a staff in place that can carry on until a replacement is found," he said. His final day on the job will be Friday, July 29.
His successor's responsibilities as executive director will include overall budget management, contract negotiations with the state and federal governments and management of over 250 employees.
"They have to understand business and be an advocate for people with disabilities," he noted.
He said he was unsure what the future holds for him post-retirement.
"It's fun to be able to wait and see what develops," he said.