Mark Harris is not your typical city employee. In fact, it took awhile for the city to get him to agree to come to work for them in Rossville. But they are so glad they did, because he is saving them between $15,000 to $20,000 a year, according to Mayor Teddy Harris (no relation).
“Mark has been working for the city for over a decade and is great at what he does,” the mayor said.
What Mark does is work two jobs for the same company: He is the director of the city’s public works department and also a captain of the city’s fire department. Both positions are full-time positions.
“When Mark is doing the fire shift he is able to do paperwork and etc. for the public works department,” Mayor Harris said. “This is a great synergy thing from our viewpoint of being a small city, with limited resources. This arrangement has worked for the city in a spectacular way.”
According to Mark Harris, he has been just as happy about the arrangement, stating: “To get to perform both jobs is a dream come true.”
“The fire service has always been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember,” Mark said.
But how did this enterprising worker move from firefighter to public works or vice versa? He tells it like this:
“When my wife and I settled in Rossville, our children played recreation ball at the Rossville Park. I was the baseball director for Carthell Rogers for several years, and an 11-year district director for Dizzy Dean Baseball,” he said.
“While assisting with recreational activities, we used some city equipment to maintain the ball fields. One of these pieces of equipment was the backhoe. At some point in time, Rossville Street Department was in need of an equipment operator. I was approached and asked if I wanted this position, and I said no.”
Mark says “this conversation continued for three or four weeks until I was approached by then-Mayor Johnny Baker. Baker and I came to terms that I would assist the street department only when they needed an operator as a part-time position.”
This all changed in 2006, when changes in the city led to Mark becoming a full-time street department employee, he says. And, then, “about two months later, ‘I was asked to be the public works director.’”
But firefighting was still in this previous junior firefighter’s blood, because he also joined the Rossville Fire Department as a volunteer, before accepting part-time work with them in addition to his full-time public works director job.
“Around the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2010, a full-time fire position opened up. I approached Public Safety Director Sid Adams and City Clerk Sherry Foster to ask about if it was possible to have both Public Works Director and a full-time firefighter position at the same time.”
“They checked with the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA),” according to Mark, “And since I was salary with the public works then it was possible for me to hold the firefighter’s position at an hourly rate.”
Mark figures that how much he saves the city by them not having to pay insurance and other benefits to two people to do both jobs will just grow more-and-more each year, since prices for these things keep rising. He’s been doing both now since 2010.
The public servant works from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each weekday at the public works department, and he works a 24-hour shift once every four days at the fire department, since the fire department’s personnel are on a 24-hour “on” and 72-hour “off” shift rotation.
But Mark is perpetually “on” for the public works department, even if he is working at the fire department, according to him, because he maintains the authority over that department and ensures the needs of the community are met by him and his men. But, it has not always been so easy.
“My biggest challenge was probably the first six months of doing both positions. Once I figured out how to balance the time between the two positions, sleep and stress issues just went away.”
The hard-working city employee has been married for 19 years to the same woman, and he says that they work out together “three-to-four times per week to help reduce stress and to get away from life, work, problems, and cellphones.”
The couple has one teen daughter still at home; a junior in high school, as well as three grand babies that they like to “kidnap every weekend.” Other than that, Mark Harris is committed to doing his two jobs.
“Even though I am blessed to be able to do both careers that I love, the greatest thing out of this is being allowed to assist people in both fields. Most of the time our public contact is when someone else is having a crisis; from a sewer being backed up to someone having chest pain.”
According to Mark, “Ninety-nine times out of 100 when we leave that person, their crisis is over; they have been helped. In our small city all of our departments work absolutely as a team. Administration, public works, fire and police are all one big team that are here for our citizens. We all work great together, assist each other, all for the same common goal of our citizens.”
“I have always been in some type of construction field of work, to which I love to do. And I have been in it since I was 18, following in my dad’s and both granddads’ footsteps. I also have the opportunity to perform a service as a firefighter, which to date I have about 24 years experience doing. So to get to perform both jobs is a dream come true.”