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San Diego's a Winner in Sanitation Circles

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San Diego's a Winner in Sanitation Circles

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San Diego's a Winner in Sanitation Circles

San Diego's a Winner in Sanitation Circles

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Sanitation truck driver of the year Junius Hawkins, right, gives San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders a quick lesson in operating his 28-ton truck's robot arm. Scott Horsley, NPR hide caption

toggle caption Scott Horsley, NPR

Sanitation truck driver of the year Junius Hawkins, right, gives San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders a quick lesson in operating his 28-ton truck's robot arm.

Scott Horsley, NPR

San Diego may have the finest garbage truck drivers in the world. For the fourth time in the city's history, a San Diego city employee has won the Sanitation Driver of the Year award.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

(Laughing) Good boy.

This next story deals, among other things, with what the dogs leave behind. San Diego's professional sports teams may never have won a Super Bowl or a World Series, but the city has a championship dynasty in trash collection.

Here's NPR's Scott Horsley.

SCOTT HORSLEY reporting:

Junius Hawkins has driven a trash truck more than half a million miles, fifty feet at a time. Next month, Hawkins will mark his 30th anniversary with the City of San Diego's trash department, and he's compiled a safety record that's almost spotless.

Mr. JUNIUS HAWKINS (San Diego Trash Department Worker): I've had a few scrapes over the years. Nothing serious. You can't be thinking about something else while you're at those controls, because its easy to hit something.

HORSLEY: Hawkins hit the jackpot this month when he was named Driver of the Year, by a National Trash Collector's Trade Group. The award honors safety, seniority, and customer service.

It prompted a celebration in the city's operations yard, hosted by the head of the trash department, Elmer Heap.

Mr. ELMER HEAP (Director, San Diego Environmental Services Department): Welcome everyone. And thank you for being here, and, as we recognize some of America's finest sanitation drivers.

HORSLEY: Note that Heap said some of America's finest drivers. San Diegans have actually won the driving award in four of the last seven years, a trash hauling dynasty that drew praise from the city's mayor, Jerry Sanders.

Mayor JERRY SANDERS (San Diego, California): No other city has ever had four drivers, and I am very proud. And I'm sure all of you are, of those folks. And now I'd like to see, firsthand, how Junius does his job. So do you mind giving me a lesson in this?

Mr. HAWKINS: Sure.

HORSLEY: Hawkins coached the mayor, as Sanders maneuvered the trash truck's robot arm to empty a garbage can.

(Soundbite of garbage can being emptied)

He stopped short of letting the mayor behind the wheel of the 28 ton truck, though. Both men agreed that's a job best left to the professionals.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, San Diego.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

SUSAN STAMBERG, host:

And I'm Susan Stamberg.

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