San Diego's a Winner in Sanitation Circles
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.
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