There is no official rating system, but the City of West Columbia’s Public Works Department is one of the best by all accounts.
“This is probably the best group of overall experienced and capable department heads we’ve ever had. They work well together as a team,” said West Columbia Mayor Bobby Horton.
He said all of the city’s staff is top quality.
“We receive far more compliments, than we receive complaints,” Horton said. “And the praise comes from the citizens of West Columbia regarding the level of service the public works department provides.”
Horton said the appreciation from the city’s residents for the sanitation department is evident in their actions.
“Some citizens routinely leave refreshments for sanitation workers on their routes,” he said. “As mayor, I very rarely get any complaints about our public works department.”
Horton said he believes the respect for the city’s personnel comes from their effort.
“They take pride in doing a good job,” said Horton.
Public Works Director Jamie Hook said the reason for the level of quality is no secret.
“We take time to train our employees,” said Hook, “and we give them a pat on the back when they deserve it.”
The community does the same. A group of volunteers from the Westover Acres Community Crimewatch Club conducts a luncheon for city workers around Christmas to show their appreciation. The club gives the city workers gift cards, too.
Aside from sanitation, Horton said the water department is another source of the city’s pride.
“They are called out all hours, day or night, said Horton. “It may be freezing cold or no matter how hot it is, they answer the call. They respond to any emergency.”
Horton referenced an incident that occurred last Saturday (June 3) involving a truck hitting several
utility poles near the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Meeting Street.
Horton said the impact caused a power outage disrupting the pumps at the riverside water station. It was the weekend, Horton said, but crews responded and made sure there was no stoppage in water production.
“They flushed out the system through the hydrants,” Horton said,” to eliminate discoloration of the water.”
In addition to scheduled service, like garbage pick up and emergency response, public works employees help beautify West Columbia.
“Public works plants, mulches and waters,” said Horton. “The magnolia trees on Sunset Boulevard were put there by public works. And public works puts out the seating during the Christmas tree lighting ceremony. They work all over the city to do whatever they can to make it better. That’s public works.”
While there is no competition to gauge the public works department as a whole, a recent contest has proved one employee the best at what he does.
Mike Bollinger, or “Bojangles” as he is known by his colleagues in the West Columbia sanitation department, won the Midlands Backhoe Rodeo in Columbia on May 25. He won the West Columbia backhoe rodeo four days before. Bollinger was judged champ among 22 municipalities in the Midlands competition. He will participate in the state backhoe rodeo competition in Charleston in July.
Bollinger said he has been operating heavy equipment since he was a small child.
“Working on the family farm I’d sit in my dad’s lap,” Bollinger said. “We had tractors, bulldozers and backhoes.”
Bollinger was with Lexington County Public Works before coming to West Columbia. He said he has been in public works for years. And he has always been accomplished at operating heavy equipment with precision.
“It’s not just moving levers. There is a connection to the machine. You work together. It’s a bond,” Bollinger said.
Hook said Bollinger was brought in because Bollinger had a reputation as an accomplished equipment operator, and the city respected that.
Bollinger said it has been a pleasure to bring his skills to the West Columbia Public Works Department. It is his favorite place to work.
“It’s a great place to work. It’s like a family.”
And public works is lucky to have Bollinger because of his work ethic.
“I like to be the best at what I do,” Bollinger said. “I expect it of myself.”
He incorporates his drive into his job with the sanitation department, operating a loader. Bollinger said he is motivated by the people he works with.
“We spend eight hours, sometimes ten hours a day, with each other at work. That’s more than you spend with your family,” Bollinger said.
He also said Hook, as director, is a factor in the department’s success.
“Everybody loves to work for Jamie. He’s down to earth. You can talk to him. He’s a friend,” Bollinger said.
Mayor Bobby Horton agreed.
“We have good leadership and good personnel,” Horton said.
The bond among city employees has helped retention.
“We have have very little turnover in our staff,” Horton said. “When we present service pins it’s not uncommon to hand out 5,10 and 15-year pins. Turnover is minimal.”