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Public Works Celebrates Its Work

Pictured from (l. to r.): Lisa McCullough, Water and Sanitation; Chuck Alvarez, Central Services; Kathy Jones, Watershed Protection District; winner Rose Paredes, Engineering Services; winner Bill DuFrain, Watershed Protection District; Howard DeLeon, Transportation Department; Jose Ramirez, Transportation Department; and Sean Hanley, Water and Sanitation Department

By Tim Pompey

Note from the Publisher: Yikes!!! Holy Camoly!! CORRECTION. I emailed from Hawaii, the 2013 Public Works article that ran in our Friday, May 30, 2014 issue instead of the correct 2014 article. Aloha

If you’re driving on a county road, live in a flood control district, or have access to county water and sewage, then you’re connected to County of Ventura Public Works Agency. Most of the time when all of this functions as it should, residents don’t think much about who manages their infrastructure.

Once a year, however, the County of Ventura Board of Supervisors in cooperation with the agency itself garners attention by celebrating National Public Works Week (May 18-24). “We do projects that you never hear about,” said Jeff Pratt, Director of Public Works. “This is the one time during the year where we shake the bushes and trees and let you know that Public Works is here.”

It’s during this time that the general public streaming in and out of the County of Ventura Government Center gets a sneak peek at a large collection of displays and equipment that belong to a department boasting approximately 400 employees and a budget of $300,000,000.

It’s also a time for local schools to get a sense of what the county’s Public Works Agency does and to expose them to potential career opportunities. This year, the agency sponsored a series of facility tours with Children R Us, Junipero Elementary School, and ACE Charter High School.

As part of his department’s celebration of National Public Works Week, the agency recognizes two employees of the year—one from an administrative department and one from a project department. From a list of eight nominees covering five different departments, this year’s winners were Rose Paredes from the Engineering Services Department (administrative), and Bill DuFrain from the Watershed Protection Agency (project).

Paredes has been working for Public Works for 22 years. As a survey tech, she helps people at the front counter find information or get questions answered regarding property lines, maps, and surveys. “It is my position to help them try either to find the correct maps or to make contact with a surveyor or work with one of our people in the back regarding line adjustments,” she explained.

She feels a strong obligation to make sure the public is served well. “I love working with people,” she said, “and I feel that we are the county and therefore we should be an example to them and all the people that are behind me.”

For Paredes, the award all boils down to one simple premise: “It’s recognition from all my peers that a smile is very important.”

Bill Dufrain has been working for Public Works since 2001. His department constructs and maintains the Watershed Protection District. He regularly converses with the public as part of his oversight of the county’s flood control facilities. “Most of these facilities are in urban areas,” he said, “so quite often we do have to interact directly with neighbors, property owners, and concerned citizens where our districts exist.”

For DuFrain, his employee of the year award is a pat on the back for a lot of hard work. “It’s recognition from my peers and from my superiors of a job well done,” he said.

Pratt maintains that Public Works are the bones that hold the county’s infrastructure together. “Public Works is the foundation,” he stated. “It’s the fabric of the quality of life that we have: the roads, flood control, water, sewage, getting rid of the trash, and all the public facilities that you use.”

He is proud of the work his department oversees and finds the challenge of coordinating Public Works both interesting and fulfilling. “I’ve always enjoyed Public Works,” he said. “Public Works is one of those professional pursuits where you get to see a project from its beginning as an idea all the way through to its implementation. And to me, that’s a very satisfying professional pursuit.”

He’s also happy to see both his department and his employees get their chance in the spotlight. “It’s about recognition,” he noted, “for all the Public Works staff and what they do.”

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