Working in public works is like having a home and family. Not the fun stuff like decorating the place or when the baby first smiles at you. No, it’s more like the year in, year out grunt work that keeps the neighbors from gossiping and the kids alive. Mowing the lawn, saving for college, shoveling the sidewalk, scheduling vaccinations.

Thankless stuff like that.

Something big always needs to be replaced just when you’ve saved enough for that vacation you’ve always wanted. No matter what you give them, the kids are never satisfied. There’s always a new toy to be had. You beg, you threaten, you cajole, but they leave lights on and stand for hours gazing into the refrigerator from the open door. You warn them and warn them about the consequences of their actions, but they learn only from painful experience.

Multiply the physical and psychological needs of a home and family by however many people live in your community, and you’ll understand why no one appreciates what you and your employees do. It’s all the burdens of homeownership with none of the joy.

Except the overwhelming pride that comes from a job well done.

You know, even though no one can see it, the structure’s solid. If you were to sell now, you wouldn’t pass major problems on to the next owner. Only you know your child’s secret fears, and you’re so proud of how he or she faces them head-on.

The holidays are a time when families and communities come together. When most people are decorating a tree and stringing up lights around a house, public works crews are hanging festive banners from streetlights and draping lights on trees along major boulevards. Then they go home and do the same there.

Most people can relax once the new year hits, but not public works. For them, the season of snow and ice control is in full gear.

It’s hard to stretch a budget so everything that needs to be done gets done. People don’t pay attention to communications — from their spouse, their kids, their employer, city hall — until something directly impacts them. When a storm hits, you get out of bed and don’t stop working until the roads are clear or officially closed to traffic. I like knowing that someone else takes care of all that.

As you and your team work on your personal and communal holiday commitments, I hope you make time to celebrate your department’s unsung heroism.


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