Newton Holds Public Works Rodeo to celebrate Public Works Week

Staff Writer

May 19-25 is National Public Works Week with this year’s theme being, “It Starts Here.”

The City of Newton held its first ever “Public Works Rodeo” on Wednesday at Southside Park.

Area schools were invited to attend, with home-schooled students and students from Jacob’s Fork Middle School and South Newton Elementary participating.

Ashley Cook, from Hildebran, brought her three kids, Murphy, eight, Asher, two, and Bravery Jane (three months) out to support her husband, Daniel, who works for Newton.

“It’s a field trip for us,” she said. “We’re excited to see everything.”

Equipment such as trucks, machines, and tools were brought out for people to see up close what is used by the department.

Climbing, wood-carving, and other demos took place to show first-hand what goes on in a typical day.

Lineman Chris Raper has worked for the city for six years now. He knew in the ninth grade that he wanted to work with electricity. Raper went to Caldwell Community College and got a two year degree to do his job.

“I saw a family friend doing his job for Blue Ridge Electric and just knew that’s what I wanted to do,” he said.

Raper doesn’t mind the danger or being 35 or 60 feet in the air, because it’s just part of the job.

“We work from the substation with transmission voltage to the distribution to the meter box,” he said. “We do it all.”

Doug Wesson heads the electric operations division. He’s in his 32 year of doing his job and is in no hurry to retire.

“I enjoy what I do,” he said. “I love it.”

He manages Jeff Cochrane, the electric supervisor, who manages the four linemen that work with the city’s electricity.

“You have to really want to do this type of work and can’t be afraid of electricity,” Cochrane said.

“Each day you put these boots on, it’s a dangerous day. You don’t get second chances.”

Cochrane also explained that the work crew is as much as a family as the people you go home to.

“You spend more time here than with your family,” he said. “It’s a brotherhood.”

Wesson said that if you’re into traveling and vacations, the field’s not for you.

“We can work a day’s work and be called back in after midnight and work another six to seven hours,” he said. “We work on holidays and in the heat, rain, and the storms.”

Tricia Saulnier-Littlejohn, known as the “shop mom” at public works, shared the importance of the rodeo.

“We want to show the public how are divisions work and that they rely on each other,” she said. “We also do this for team-building and to show our skills.”

Saulnier-Littlejohn said that sometimes public works are under-appreciated because the public has no clue what goes on.

“They work so hard,” she said. “People don’t see what they’ve done, because they are done before you notice what they did.”