After decades of service as attorney for Vernon Township, R. Charles Thomas is retiring.

Thomas gave a "a verbal indication" to Township Manager Robert Horvat and the supervisors individually that he would resign at the end of 2019, according to Horvat.

Horvat added that Thomas "wants to cut back on his work" but is going to continue with his law practice at Thomas, Spadafore, & Walker in Meadville. Thomas also serves as attorney for Sadsbury Township and the chair of Meadville's Zoning Hearing Board.

"Everybody hates to see him go," Horvat said. "He’s been an institution at the township. He’s been the township solicitor for years — probably in the 40-plus year range."

Township Secretary Lori Swavey found meeting minutes that confirmed Thomas was approved on Jan. 2, 1979.

Horvat said the township was looking for a new attorney in the Crawford County area with experience and knowledge in municipal law. He mentioned Thomas had "seen everything once," and Horvay would miss Thomas' reliability on most any legal questions that came up for township leaders.

Dave Stone, former longtime Vernon Township manager, praised Thomas' professionalism and expertise. Stone was glad Thomas can "finally take a break."

"Not only was he a good attorney, he was a good friend," Stone said. "We never had a lot of liability or things go wrong because of his leadership."

Township Supervisor Gary Wagner said he has known Thomas for 50 years and that he is "a fantastic attorney."

"He has such a vast knowledge," Wagner said. "He would give you his answer and say, 'If it's any different, I'll get back to you.' I'm glad he stayed as long as he did."

Stone, who retired in 2017 after serving Vernon Township as its manager since 1989, counted Thomas' retirement as "a loss for the township" and that he was sorry to see him retire. Similarly, Horvat counted on Thomas' institutional memory for how to proceed in challenges for the area.

"It’ll probably be a little adjustment for everybody not having R. Charles here," Horvat said. "He was somebody that could rattle off something that we did in the ‘80s that’s comparable to what we’re doing now that none of us remembered. I’m sure whoever we take will have big shoes to fill."

Thomas did not return Tribune requests for comment.

Tyler Dague can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at tdague@meadvilletribune.com.

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