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Paul Thomas
Harold Feder | Crest Road

Paul Thomas (in orage shirt) behind Mary Friestedt (in fucia shirt), Mary organized a work party on August 3, 2012 to rake, de-weed, and prepare the grounds in front of the new Community Building on 9th Street for beautification. The Public Works team with Paul hauled away the yard waste and brought in some dirt for a low-water display that Mary created with succulents and rock.
Photo Betty Wheeler
Click on image to enlarge.

In full disclosure, I am a huge fan of the Public Works Department. I strongly believe that we Del Martians are lucky to have this crew help us navigate through some of the travails of our everyday life. One of the veterans of this group is Paul Thomas.

Q: What is your background regarding Public Works?
A: I was hired in 1987 and initially worked half time on Beach Maintenance and halftime at Public Works. I have worked for 5 City Managers and 4 Department Heads.

Q: How did you learn of the job?
A: My neighbor, Sam Nocosia, was working there.

Q: What were your qualifications?
A: I had worked in many aspects of construction for a number of years including concrete work, plumbing and framing. I was thirty-one years old at the time of my hiring. Also, I learned people skills from working at my family’s restaurant in Burbank.

Q: Do you have a family?
A: I have been married for 31 years and have three grown children, two daughters and a son. I also have five grandchildren.

Q: Has the department changed in size or otherwise?
A: The department is about the same size. However, you now need additional qualifications including a class B license and certification from the California Water Board and certification regarding work on sewers. Also, our work is different.

Q: How?
A: When I was first hired, we worked mainly on water leaks and sewer stopages. Now, we are much more proactive. Our infrastructure is much better. We have upgraded the water meters and the sewer system. We constructed a new pump station. We do a lot more landscaping than before and have new construction projects like the sidewalks on Jimmy Durante.

Q: Is your relationship with the residents different?
A: The residents haven’t changed much. Obviously, some older residents have left and some younger residents have moved in. The difference is that we now have much more interaction with the residents. We are more “hands on.”

Q: Is our department different from other cities?
A: Very different. First, we are located within minutes of the residents. Second, when we get a call, our response is immediate and most of the time we are there within five minutes. We come as fast as we can. We also know a lot of the residents so they see somebody familiar. Third, we are on call 24 hours a day. At all times, two of us are on call during off hours and are required to live within thirty minutes of Del Mar. In other towns, you might wait days for a worker who you don’t even know to show up.

Q: What is your favorite part of the job?
A: Probably landscaping. I really like working with the Garden Club and helping to solve problems. I also like the variety of work. It is like a challenge-each day is different. That is also different from other cities as workers in San Diego typically do only one type of job day in and day out.

Q: What is your least favorite part of the job?
A: Getting up at 5:30.

Q: What are your hobbies?
A: I enjoy fixing up old trucks. I just sold a 1953 Ford pick up and am looking for a new vehicle to work on. I also like to go boating on the Colorado River.

Q: Who gave you the best piece of advice?
A: My dad who said “to look to the future and save for later in life.”

Q: Who and/or what makes you laugh?
A: All the guys I work with. They are all clowns in a certain way. Every day I come to work they make me laugh. My granddaughter makes me laugh. I laugh at myself. That’s what makes this place so interesting. You never know what is going to happen. Each day is like a chapter in a book. It’s a great place to work.

Q: You guys seem to be a close group. Are you?
A: We are…they are a bunch of nice guys. We try and get together socially, but it is hard because we live in different parts of the county and we have families. But we work together well. It’s a good crew.

Q: What can we do to help make your job easier?
A: I can’t think of anything. It is fun. We receive many nice letters and people thank us. That makes all of us feel good.

Having never lived in a small town before, I have to admit that it can be an adjustment. Without question, one positive adjustment is to be walking down the street with your dog and one of the guys from Public Works comes by and acknowledges both of you by name. So, on behalf of myself and Mo, a wave of the hand and a wag of the tail.



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