Kelsie Lee and her father, Richard, public works director for the City of New London, N.H., remember Ryan Haynes, who was killed on the job in 2005 while filling potholes for the New London Highway Department. Photo: Kelsie Lee
When public works crews set out on a job they do so discreetly and with little spectacle. When firefighters or police officers are paged to a scene they respond with loud sirens and flashing lights. As they go through town everyone asks, “What's going on?” But when a dump truck or backhoe loader rides up the road with its amber lights flashing, people mutter, “Can they go any slower?” or “What are they going to make a mess of now?”
One of my survey statements was: “Citizens feel as though Public Works/ Highway employees are lazy and unproductive.” I assumed many respondents would agree, but only 52% did. Dennis McCarthy, the public works director in Raymond, N.H.—as well as deputy fire chief and police commissioner in Auburn, N.H.—responded: “I disagree. Cops eat donuts, firefighters sleep on the job, and public works stand around and watch one man work.” Funny as it sounds, his depictions of stereotypes is true—we all have them.
There are misconceptions about all three professions, but the media make it look as though firefighters and police have been working diligently on-scene and therefore deserve a break. Unfortunately, it seems that media are alleging that public works crews are “a bunch of drunks who c¡y respondent asked if I know of any other business where I could find a mechanic who could work on a chain saw, police cruiser, and fire truck as well as weld a snow plow and build a hydraulic hose. To be honest, I can't. That same respondent said that in the private sector, those would be five separate specialties.
For public works crews, it's just an average day.
— Lee is a graphic design major who just completed her freshman year at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, N.H.