YOUNGSTOWN — Today marks Bob Bush's last day as director of the Mahoning County Department of Job and Family Services.
He started heading the county's largest department 10 years ago, after serving seven years with the Mahoning County Prosecutor's Office — five of those years as head of the office's criminal division.
"I've had a great, great life and I've been blessed," Bush told commissioners and other county officials who joined virtually or in-person to see Bush off during a Thursday commissioners meeting.
Bush said he's readying for some "leisurely travel" with his wife and plans to put more time into finishing his memoirs — a "snippet" of experiences from his "different lives."
"Thank you for the opportunity. I've enjoyed it. I didn't even look at it as a job. It was my life," he later added. "My wife would complain, 'Robert, you need to get out of [public service].' I would tell her, 'That's all I know.'
"I think it's been more plusses than minuses."
Bush headed up a helicopter crew and served as a door gunner in the Vietnam War, during which he was injured twice and received multiple commendations including two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, said Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains.
On Thursday Gains, who also served alongside Bush on the Youngstown Police Department in the 1970s, said Bush epitomizes "service."
Commissioners on Thursday accepted Bush's resignation and appointed Audrey Morales, the department's fraud compliance administrator, to interim director.
"Bob's background and resume read like a Hollywood story — nobody could write a script like that," said Commissioner Anthony Traficanti. "You laid it on the line for this community your whole career and you never left."
"We got a lot of directors and a lot of them are attentive, but every time I called you [Bush] ... you always answered the phone. You were always there to help," said Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti.
"You can train people to be a gunner, you can train people to be a police officer you can train people to be an attorney, but you can never train people to be a good person," said Commissioner David Ditzler.
Bush told Mahoning Matters he feels he made his greatest mark on the office by settling internal political disputes, also by raising the department's profile in the community.
"I wanted us to be more visible in the community and I think we did that," he said.