It’s easy to get excited watching world-class teams at the Super Bowl, Final Four, PGA Championship, NBA playoffs, World Cup, Stanley Cup or World Series, but it is another thing to watch our world-class Paradise Valley Public Works team vibe together day after day, keeping our town safe and beautiful.
Resplendent in my khaki long-sleeve work shirt, boots and tan 5.11 tactical pants, I arrived at 5:20 a.m. to a room of curious Public Works employees and was issued a PV Public Works baseball cap, safety vest and a very orange Carhartt work shirt along with eye and ear protection. At the morning huddle, Supervisor Chris Martinez told us our team of five (short two staff) would be trimming and maintaining 56th Street between Lincoln and McDonald.
I jumped in the Public Works truck with my new supervisor, Andy Farrell, and off we went. The rest of the crew with the woodchipper was right behind us. The sunrise was breathtaking.
As we set up on 56th Street I got safety instructions from a very earnest Steve Saraydar as they explained dry loading the chipper so they only have to turn it on when they are ready to chip. Since it’s noisy and they hate disturbing residents, they run it for the shortest amount of time. Meanwhile, I got busy with the hedge trimmer and took a few quick lessons from tree-maestro Roberto Olivas about the best way to sculpt a sage. He wields that 10-pound trimmer like an orchestra baton. Me? Notsomuch.
Throughout the morning the crew kept checking in with each other, teasing, jumping in to grab a rake, fill a gas can, pick up debris, hoist a heavy trash can, offer a water bottle or pull a truck up ahead. They are a seamless, efficient professional team that gets a lot done. After a few trips to dump our clippings and get some advice and ribbing from 34-year employee, Jeff Johnson, we made it back for a quick lunch with the rest of the crew including Eric Shurtleff and Chris Perry.
Our afternoon shift was interrupted with an emergency call to remove a large tree branch blocking the north Doubletree sidewalk. Although the tree was on private property, the fallen branch was a safety hazard obstructing the sidewalk. Ace tree trimmer Gary Pantina cut it up and as we were putting branches on the lawn, the homeowner came out to thank us and I remember thinking, “we need to encourage residents to call whenever there are obstructions on the road or sidewalk.”
The rest of the afternoon flew by as we worked our way landscaping up 56th Street, cleaned up a town right of way and headed back for the weekly Wednesday afternoon vehicle maintenance check. With almost 80 pieces of equipment and vehicles to maintain, there was plenty to do.
The Public Works Department maintains almost 150 miles of roadway, 40 acres of public building, medians, rights of way and other property, 5,000 trees, plants, and shrubs, 10 bus stop shelters, seven buildings totaling almost 70,000 square feet and 3,500 street signs. They do all this with a 14-employee team and work even harder when short-staffed. (This awesome department is currently looking for qualified applicants, so if you know anyone, please have them apply.)
I was truly impressed by how well they work together, how much they get done and how much they care about our residents. These guys treat the town like their own and willingly come in at 2 a.m. to clean up after a storm or street sweep Tatum and Lincoln when it will disrupt less traffic. They are a championship team.
When you see an orange-shirted Public Works employee in the road, please give them a moment of patience or even a thank you. We are so very lucky to have this all-star team keeping our town beautiful. They make a big difference.
Now, if I can just convince Public Works Director Brent Skoglund to order those baseball caps with a ponytail opening, I might apply…
Anna Thomasson is a second-term councilmember of the Town of Paradise Valley.