May 26

Wayne Ghann - Water Department Superintendent

Posted on May 26, 2023 at 11:18 AM by Ken Kocher

Wayne Ghann - Water SuperintendentAs both the superintendent of the Madison Water Department and pastor of the Rutledge Baptist Church, Wayne Ghann says each job has its rewards and challenges. “They keep me up at night sometimes,” he laughs. Ghann manages 14 employees at the water and the wastewater facilities. Each employee works a 10-hour shift, keeping the facilities manned 20 hours a day.

Wayne is proud of the water produced at the City of Madison’s two water treatment plants. Our water, says Ghann, is top notch. “I would put ours against any bottled water you can buy.” Water, says Ghann, is tested and re-tested during each shift. “There’s a good bit of work going on,” he says. “They test all day long.”

Water coming from Hard Labor Creek is processed at the city’s Second Street plant and water from Lake Oconee is processed at the Briar Lane facility. Altogether, he says, the city processes more than 1.5 million gallons of clean, safe drinking water every day on average for its more than 3,000 customers. Madison is well-positioned for future growth and water use. The Second Street facility is permitted to produce 1.75 million gallons a day and the Lake Oconee facility is permitted to produce 2 million gallons per day.

Ghann has been working with the city Water Department since he sold his plumbing business in 1997, starting as an operator at the city’s Second Street plant. He wasn’t convinced the job would be a good fit. “I wasn’t planning on staying but just a little while,” he laughs. In 2011 he was named superintendent.

He felt the same way before he became the pastor of Rutledge Baptist Church. Ghann has been the pastor of the church for the past 30 years. Leading the church, he says, was a calling he struggled with. “I never wanted to be a pastor,” he says, “I just wanted to be a plumber. I fought it for a lot of years but I’m glad I surrendered to it,” he says. He also learned from his father, who pastored Faith Baptist Church for 45 years.

Wayne has been married to his wife, Lorrie, for 44 years. The couple has three children: Daniel, Josh, and Amanda and nine grandchildren.

For the moment, he says, he finds himself in the right place. Whether at church or at work, Ghann says he keeps his perspective faith-based and practical. A calming hand over sometimes turbulent water. “I just try to treat everybody fairly,” he says. “During times of crisis, I find I can sometimes give comfort and give people some peace.”

Apr 18

Jarrell, Thomas, & Warren - Trash Collection

Posted on April 18, 2023 at 2:10 PM by Ken Kocher

Tim Thomas, Stephen Warren and Craig Jarrell
Tim Thomas, Stephen Warren and Craig Jarrell

Every week, three men - one driving, two collecting - scoop up more than 120,000 pounds of garbage from residential customers in Madison. They do so in the broiler that is August and the deep freeze of December. If it’s raining, they collect. If it’s 10 degrees, they collect. If it's 100 degrees, they collect.

On Monday and Friday, the team of Craig Jarrell, Tim Thomas, and recently hired Stephen Warren, collect more than 10 tons of trash per day. On Tuesday and Thursday 20 tons per day are collected and taken to the Morgan County transfer station. On Wednesday the team patrols Madison in the “junk” trunk, an open bed truck that picks up everything from discarded furniture to mattresses.

The men begin each day at 7 a.m. and work until the route is complete. They have, Jarrell says, eight hours to complete the route. If they do so with efficiency and hard work and get done earlier, they get done earlier. “If they want to roll, that’s on them,” Jarrell says.

Jarrell has been driving the truck for the past 16 years and serves as both the supervisor for the crew and an important look-out for the men. “It’s my job to keep them safe. People sometimes get mad because I have to block the street.” Jarrell says that at times he must position the truck to protect his crew. “There have been plenty of times they’ve almost gotten hit.” In fact, Jarrell begs for patience. “We want to keep them safe and get them home after a route.”

For Thomas, a lean, fit-looking man, the work has been fulfilling for the past 16 years. A collector, Tim breaks open a wide grin when he tries to describe his role on the team. “It’s a lot of walking,” he jokes. Warren, who has worked the truck for the past eight months, says he enjoys the freedom and labor of the truck. “I like it because it’s almost like a workout.” Jarrell says the workers have customers that appreciate the level of work it takes to keep the city clean. “These guys work in the rain, sleet, snow, it doesn’t matter,” he says. “We can’t keep Tim that skinny doing nothing,” he jokes.

Thomas is a father, as is Warren, as is Jarrell. Thomas says when the crew works hard, they can shave off time off the eight-hour shift. That, he says, allows him to “go home and rest up so I can do it again the next day.” For Jarrell, it’s about getting the important job done and getting through the rigors of collecting tons of garbage safely.

“At the end of the day, everybody gets to go home,” he says.

Apr 12

Erin Tewksbury - Street Superintendent

Posted on April 12, 2023 at 4:35 PM by Ken Kocher

Erin Tewksbury

 For our chat, Erin Tewksbury does something that for the 52-year-old Madison Street Department Superintendent is unusual – he takes a seat.

Tewksbury, a phone in each pocket with one or the other ringing intermittently, doesn’t have time to relax and talk. Since beginning with the City of Madison 24 years ago after serving as the grounds superintendent for the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center, Erin has become a jack-of-all-trades employee for the City and the go-to person for daily challenges.

The father of three manages a staff of approximately 20 people who, in turn, manage to keep Madison running. Tewksbury shares that his department handles commercial garbage (starting at 2 a.m. to avoid interference with business activity), residential garbage, leaf & limb pickup, the city’s “junk” truck, the repair shop and, of course, street maintenance and repair.

He also helps plant flowers int the city’s downtown planters and beds.

Erin’s official day is 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. but he always starts at 6 a.m. “I try to get ahead of the day.” The son of a farm family, Tewksbury credits his father Mark and mother Carol with developing in him a strong work ethic and an adaptive, problem-solving mind that he says is crucial for the job. “My dad,” he says, “talks about being ‘barn blind.’ You focus on what’s in your barn and you learn to adapt and adjust. It’s the farming culture.” His parents, he says, taught him to work around problems that threaten to stop an enterprise. “They gave me a way of thinking through a thing by myself,” he says.

He and his team create an appearance and atmosphere in the city that is the envy of small towns across the country. “It is a collaborative, group effort,” he says. “Everybody has something to do.”

Tewksbury tried and, according to him, failed at a manufacturing job. Being outside tasked every day with new challenges is what keeps him fulfilled.

After work? He works. “When I get home, I feed the sheep and cows. That’s my therapy.”