I don’t mean to complain, but I want to bring this to everyone’s attention because it’s near and dear to my heart. I consider you guys friends and I hope you will indulge me a little. I’ve worked in the Public Works Division for going on 23 years now, and I can bear witness that the hardest working department that gets the least appreciation is the Street Department.
This year, the American Public Works Association has adopted the motto “It Starts Here” for National Public Works Week, May 19 – 25. The reason for the motto is that in every disaster or inclement weather incident, the Street Department along with other Public Works employees are called first — yet the appreciation and recognition nearly always go solely to the emergency vehicles that they have cleared the way for.
In the article about the Roman Holiday incident, credit was justly given to the fire department for transporting the kids; however, there was more to the story. When it happened, Emergency Management Director Tim Herrington first called the street department and reached Tim Garrett who radioed Construction Superintendent Gary Burk. Gary had been monitoring his radio as well and was already on the move. He asked Tim to relay to EMT that he was getting the street department’s boat and was bringing it right away. He knew the fire department boat was too small and anticipated they would need this boat before it was even asked for. He arrived on the scene quickly and got the boat in the water, ready to go. The fire department ferried the kids to shore while Gary waited patiently on the dock to remove the boat and put it back in storage.
I know this might seem a small omission, but in more cases than I can count over my 23 years, the street department was either on the scene before anyone or the job couldn’t proceed until they arrived. They are not always, but often, overlooked when accolades are bestowed. They will be blamed in a hot minute if the highest rainfall in decades clogs the storm drains or undermines the road by creating or worsening potholes or if uncaring motorists litter the streets five minutes after crews have picked it up, but they are the guys that are called on, taken away from their regular duties or pulled out of bed overnight more often than you might expect to help others. You could say this is their job, which it is to an extent, but the unwavering support they give to the public and other departments, along with their accurate anticipation of what might be needed, is due to their experience and a level of caring and commitment that is above and beyond job requirements.
If you can find a way during this month containing National Public Works Week to acknowledge them and the hard work of all the Public Works Departments including the Solid Waste Collections workers who are also invisible to the public, I would personally be grateful. These people aren’t doing what they do for the recognition, but I know they would be proud to have it.
Office Manager, Public Works Department