Unsung heroes: Public works employees

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Public works is not for the faint of heart. How would you like climbing down into a sewer?  These workers do that every day.

And that day starts early.  Andre Kaufman heads up the department.  "I know in my case, I'm up at 4:30." Kaufman said.  "Our people report to work here to go to work at 6:30.  We begin every day with a staff meeting, each of the seven departments represented."

Here's an unusual benefit. The city saves thousands of dollars every year refurbishing barricades instead of buying them new.

Are trees overgrowing your roadway?  Public works to the rescue. Your street a bit on the dirty side? That's not a problem for the street sweepers. Having sewer problems? You can count of public works to correct the problem.

Scott Smajd is a mechanic. He describes his job in simple terms.

"If something breaks, we go fix it. But otherwise, nobody knows we're really here." Smajd said. "We just keep the equipment moving for my part and keep the guys getting to their jobs."

People who live in one neighborhood want to light up the entrance sign. Public works is there to brighten things up just a bit. It's hard work in a hot sun but well worth the effort when the job is done.

So what is it about public works that makes men and women want to enter this profession?  Well, let's just say it goes back to an old but time honored tradition, an honest days work for an honest days pay.

Ronnie Ducksworth is a veteran city worker.

"Just coming to work and doing your job. I love it every day." Ducksworth said. "I've been out here 18 years and the whole scenario of a job. We work hard and hopefully it's appreciated."

One thing that was not appreciated was the work these men and women did in the dark days after Katrina. An emotional Andre Kaufman remembers, and called them true first responders, and heroes.

"I had men that had lost everything that went home for three hours and came back." Kaufman said. "These guys worked seven days a week, 16-18 hours a day. I had a group of six that slept on my shop floor."

Times are better now, thanks to the efforts of the men and women who proudly call themselves true public workers.

The Ocean Springs public works department employs a staff of 42 people with an annual operating budget of $11 million.

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