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While most folks were enjoying their post-barbecue food comas yesterday, Joseph DeLeon and Chris Englund were standing in a sewer lift station making sure S#*! really did flow down hill.

City of El Campo utility workers, the two stood on a decidedly stinky floor. They had already cleared the sewer pump, a job as messy and smelly as it sounds, but for these two it’s just another holiday on call.

Englund, the chief of the city’s Waste Water Treatment Plant, has been on the job a little more than 18 years. DeLeon, a utility crew chief, has about five years with the city.

“Somebody’s got to do it,” DeLeon said, standing in front of the West Loop lift station at about 5:25 p.m. with Englund.

DeLeon’s day started about 8 a.m. with what should have been minor, routine duties like checking wells and water systems.

A broken 12-inch water main on Kentucky near the intersection with Spruce hadn’t been in the plans – but had to be fixed nonetheless.

As he was preparing to end his shift, DeLeon spotted Englund’s truck. “I can’t just pass him by,” he said. “The bottom line is I take care of the taxpayer. I work for the city of El Campo, but I don’t work for a supervisor. I work for the taxpayer.”

If there’s a glamorous side to city employment, this isn’t it. Their jobs are definitely the get your hands dirty variety, but as they say, somebody’s got to do it and, they add, they want to see it done right.

“While everyone’s sleeping the work doesn’t stop. It’s a holiday? The work doesn’t stop,” DeLeon said.

“We’re always here. Someone is always on call,” Englund said.

A Boling High School graduate, Englund marked the start of his shift with routine duties too, and he thought that might be it – right until the SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) system at a couple of the lift stations stopped broadcasting.

The issue meant barbecue plans were over. It was time to go back to work. 

Actual service was never interrupted, the public never noticed a difference – and that’s the goal.

“This is our passion. God helped me out. He put me in a position to help people,” he said. “On my evaluation, it said, ‘You try too hard to help people out.’”

“It’s a good place to work,” Englund said, adding teamwork helps ensure the public gets the service it expects. “We do our best work together.”

Both men, Public Works Director Kevin Thompson said, “are TCEQ licensed operators to keep our system safe ... (they) have achieved a license level that is difficult to obtain. These are essential positions that require dedicated employees to monitor our system daily. Seven days a week, sometimes 24 hours a day.”

Teamwork helps ensure safety too, they both said offering up examples, and a tradition of excellence.

“Jerry (Lewis, the city utility superintendent) and Kevin (Thompson, Public Works Director) they’ve been there, they already know the ropes. Now, we fill their shoes. Lead by example,” DeLeon said.

The West Loop job was done around 6 p.m., the two weren’t headed home. There was one more job to do.

Just another day working for the city.

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