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Lottery millionaire back at firefighter job

A mountain of cash couldn't keep firefighter Bill Watson away from his job.

Watson, 35, quit in 1985 after winning $4.1-million in the Iowa lottery. He returned Tuesday as a trainee, saying he was too young to retire.

"I miss the job. I liked it," Watson said.

Watson said his friends thought he was crazy for wanting to go back to the city fire department, where he had worked for nearly five years before his lucky number came up in the lottery.

"There was just nobody around my age to run around with," he said.

Watson's lottery luck brings him about $150,000 a year until 2005. During 16 weeks of training, Watson and 18 other new firefighters will receive $20,939. After training, they will earn $27,509 annually.

Watson, from Council Bluffs, Iowa, left his job as a fire truck driver the day after he won the lottery on Nov. 14, 1985, but he returned at the bottom of the seniority pile. He will be on probation for one year.

More than 700 people applied for 19 jobs.

"I know there are a lot of people without jobs, but I competed to get this job and just because you have money that doesn't mean that . . . your life should be different than anybody else's," Watson said.

Watson, who lived much of his life in a mobile home, bought a house, remodeled it himself and moved in in 1989.

Watson said he missed the work almost as soon as he quit.

Much of his first day as a trainee was spent getting to know fire officials and filling out paperwork. The recruits will receive emergency medical training and classroom instruction and learn how to handle hazardous materials and fire equipment.

"He likes to help people and he's real conscientious at what he does," said firefighter Rick Noonen, a friend of Watson. "He's basically the same person, I would say."