In the spirit of full disclosure I have to come clean and admit that I have a bias for the men and women in hard hats wearing City uniforms. I hold all City employees in high regard but as someone that was born and raised professionally in Public Works (aka Public Service Department) it’s hard for me not to sing their praises any chance I get.
The good news is I can sing their praises without audio so you’re in luck.
This time of year we actually see more of the Public Service employees than any other time. Winter brings out the worst in our weather and the worst weather brings out our Public Service employees.
Last night as I shoveled for the bizzillionith time this winter, I could hear the sounds of a City plow truck operator working the neighborhood. Round he went, pushing and scraping along the way — and like the lone ranger he was done and gone before I had a chance to wave goodbye and say thanks.
But that’s no surprise. The folks that are attracted to a career in Public Service tend to prefer working behind the scenes, at least until we need them.
I’ve worked in enough cities to know that Public Service/Public Works type — salt of the earth, pragmatic, humble, strong backs, vice grips and proud of what they do. As they should be. (cue the Alleluia chorus here).
In a less visible, but no less courageous way, Public Service Employees are fearless. When we talk of fearless City employees I’m sure Police and Fire come to mind (and they deserve to be at the top of the bravery on our behalf category) but I would make a case that Public Service employees have an every day fearlessness to what they do that is no less impressive than their Police and Fire brethren.
National occupational health and safety figures for on-the-job injuries and fatalities rank construction and street maintenance employees at the top of the list for high risk professions – even higher than either Police or Fire. Yet outside of the employees that work in the trenches few people appreciate the dangers in the work of Public Service/Public Works.
Public Service/Public Works is a full contact sport. Whether it’s climbing 60’ up to remove weakened tree limbs, squeezing down manholes to clear debris stuck in sewer lines, or descending into failing underground pump stations that are half submerged in human waste and water with electric circuits exposed – it is not for the faint hearted. Nor is it for the unprepared.
Public works employees are not headline hunters, they’re problem solvers. If it’s broke, they climb in and fix it without giving it a second thought. They’re heroes in hardhats whose courage is easily overlooked because it is dressed in coveralls and looks too much like work to be heroic.
Wherever people are and whenever they need us, Public Service is there for them. It’s employees that go where others won’t go because it has to get done and they’re first in line to help.
It’s selfless acts – not for glory’s sake – but for the sake of knowing that you’re a person who has what it takes, and the guts to use it.
True heroism isn’t found in glory received, it’s found in humble acts of service to others that depend on Public Service to do what they do best.
Don’t Try This At Home
It takes a special person to climb 12’ below ground, crawl through half-frozen mud, while ½ ton sections of pipe swing overhead and only narrow trench boxes stand between them and the weight of thousands of cubic yards of soil. But that’s exactly what Public Service employees do.
The work is done with little fanfare. There are no parades or medals for these acts of everyday courage; they are done out of a sense of duty, honor and pride.
These unheralded sacrifices don’t make the headlines; instead they just quietly go about their business of putting the community on their backs to reach its goals.