Now Joiner, 59, says its time to go. By the first of next year Joiner will retire, leaving a vacancy that commissioners say they will have a hard time filling.
"I think everybody knows when it's time and it's time for me to go," Joiner said. "I'm really just tired right now. I need to rest some."
Joiner's decision represents another leadership change in Calhoun County. The Anniston City Council is still trying to replace former Anniston City Manager George Monk.
Commissioners say they will conduct a search for Joiner's replacement, but they haven't worked out all the details.
"We better get us a lot of gasoline because we've got to search high and low to find someone who would take Ken Joiner's place," Commissioner Rudy Abbott said. "He is the ultimate professional. He knows his job, knows how to bring people together and he's been the heart and soul of county government for 38 years."
Commissioner J.D. Hess gave his "amen" to that sentiment and said Joiner is the best county administrator in the state. He said his replacement should have administrative degrees, and a "common-sense attitude."
"We're wanting someone that meets the public … that can work with the public," Hess said. "That's very important to us and someone that finds ways to say, 'Yes' instead of ways to say, 'No.'"
Commissioner James "Pappy" Dunn said the commission is thinking seriously about who could take Joiner's place.
"He should have administrative qualities, be exacting in his decisions and take a look at the whole picture of the Calhoun County Commission system," Dunn said.
Commissioners spoke of a public search to replace Joiner, like the one for Anniston's city manager job.
"We'll probably do a search, and advertise the position," Commissioner Robert Downing said. "We'll advertise it first within the state … through our state association."
Joiner rode the highs and lows through his administration, most recently navigating the transfer of former Fort McClellan property to county control after a judge dissolved its redevelopment board. He said the McClellan issue has made his job difficult. He also said through the years he had a difficult time firing or disciplining anyone and dealt with commissioners who weren't as agreeable as the current crop.
But when he could he helped commissioners find common ground.
"The one time I went through four years of a difficult situation, we didn't accomplish a thing because (the commissioners) didn't get along," Joiner said. "… It's emblematic of what happens in government if you can't agree to get along you'll never get anything accomplished. I hope I've helped mesh that together at times."
He said commissioners should look for someone with a flexible personality. Abbott said it will be difficult to find someone whose opinion is as trusted by commissioners as Joiner's.
"We disagree all the time," Abbott said. "When we get through we say, 'Ken, what do you think we ought to do?' Ninety-nine times out of 100 that's what we do."