I’ve been cleaning out some old files (I’m always behind when it comes to that sort of thing), and came across a copy of a newsletter, published earlier this year by the City of Norman.
What caught my eye was a list of longevity awards, recognizing years of service to our community. I was amazed at what I saw: awards recognizing 50 years of service (1), 40 years (3), 35 years (10), 25 years (17) and 20 years (22). There were other awards for fewer years, but 50 years of service, 40, 30 — wow. Talk about dedicated service. I spent 26 years in the Air Force — these folks put me to shame.
As I thought about it, I wasn’t really surprised. During my tenure on the City Council, and in the course of membership on several committees, I’ve gotten to know many of our fine city employees. I’ve had the chance to witness the good work they do for Norman, often with little or no recognition. But serve us they do, year in and year out. What follows is by no means a complete list.
It’s been my privilege to work with a number of divisions within Public Works. I’ve worked closely with Stormwater for some years. Recently, I was invited to a demonstration of a new TV monitoring vehicle.
This technology, now in use, maps/records our storm sewer system, identifying blockages and/or deteriorating infrastructure. What struck me about the demo was the professionalism of the crew running the show. They saw their jobs — preventing potential flooding while ensuring pollutants don’t enter our water supply — as vital to the environment.
I’ve toured Fleet Maintenance, and was impressed with the proficiency of our maintenance personnel in keeping everything from police cars to trash trucks and street sweepers up and running. I’ve talked with managers in the Streets Department about the challenges they face in managing repair contracts while keeping an eye on traffic control, major tasks handled by a few dedicated public servants.
Utilities managed the Water Treatment Facility through a major renovation project with no interruption of service to customers. At the other end of the spigot (forgive my vain attempt at humor), the Water Reclamation Plant returns water that’s virtually contamination-free into the river.
What impressed me at both facilities was the investment employees have in the efficient operation of these plants, and learning about how employees’ recommendations on equipment maintenance have saved the city thousands in operational costs.
Related: Utilities personnel are also active in the Lake Thunderbird Watershed Alliance, dedicated to protecting the water quality and quantity of the lake. In July, work included a cleanup event at the lake. Another project — under the Utilities Environmental and Sustainability Division — involves plans for a permanent Hazardous Waste Facility.
I’ve visited with Parks and Recreation personnel at the dedication of several new parks, and on-scene as they’ve cleaned up after homeless encampments. I’ve been flattered by their unselfishness, manifested in staff staying very late when ward meetings ran long at the 12th Avenue Rec Center. I’ve seen the Plans staff in action, interfacing with homeless individuals at the Evening Shelter, working hard to to provide these folks with benefits available to them and striving to make Norman’s permit processes more efficient and “user friendly.” I could go on — there’s so much more to say.
Dedicated service. Earlier this year, I attended the funeral of Henry Baskeyfield. I got to know Henry in his job at Norman’s Animal Welfare Shelter. He loved his job, and was genuine in his concern for animals.
I also knew Henry in his capacity as president of the local chapter of AFSCME, the union that represents city employees (other than police and fire). Henry served Norman for 43 years at the shelter, and for 30 years as union president.
Henry loved the members he served; his life epitomized dedication. He’s gone, but his legacy lives on in the hardworking city employees who serve us daily. I thank them for all they do.