Irving Ellis loved working for the Plattekill Highway Department, so much so that he stayed for 30 years and just recently retired in late November.
“My wife used to laugh at me, I loved my job, absolutely loved my job. You meet all kinds of people in the public,” he said.
Ellis worked at a variety of jobs for the department, “everything from a laborer to a truck driver to an equipment operator.”
Ellis said when he was a young man with a growing family he searched for a secure job that included benefits; Plattekill fit the bill. He already had the necessary license to drive large trucks when he applied for the job.
“They took a chance on me and I got the job,” he recalled.
Ellis enjoyed not being locked into “one thing all the time; jobs can change a half-dozen times during a day depending on what happens, if its a rain storm and you get called out for flooding or its drainage or tree work or blacktop; there is such a variety of things.”
Ellis will soon be moving into a house in Plattekill and has part-time jobs lined up as a delivery truck driver and in the spring he expects to be working at the Rondout Valley Campground.
As a young man Ellis worked on his grandfather’s dairy farm in New Paltz and learned skills that paid off handsomely when he came to work for Plattekill.
“I already knew how to run tractors and various equipment and I was a quick learner. I could get on something and figure it out, get a feel for it and get the job done,” he said.
Ellis said there is a lot of prep work the public does not get to see.
“When you see workers standing by a job site they are not just be leaning on their shovels. More than likely you are waiting for materials or a piece of machinery to show up. Sometimes you have to wait for somebody to finish replacing a pipe and get out of the way before you can go ahead and get some material around the pipe. There are a lot of things that look like you’re not doing anything, but you are,” he said.
Ellis said some jobs take some time to complete because there are more safety laws in place today than when he first started out.
“I think they make you think about things a little more before you just jump in and do them. They make you more aware of some of the things that can happen, but the bottom line is everybody’s there to do what they can as far as the maintenance and repair to keep the public safe,” he said.
Ellis said long before “shared services” became a catch phrase, Plattekill always worked with the surrounding communities when needed.
“Every town can’t have every piece of equipment. Sometimes you have to rent one but sometimes the town next to you has it,” he said. “I tell you there are a lot of great people and highway superintendents out there working in the public interest.”
Ellis said many times when he was off work people would stop and thank him for the good work the highway department does for the residents of the town. He said these are the moments that touched his heart.
Ellis said he will miss the people “you bump into all the time,” adding that the “biggest reward is the people I’ve worked with. Some of the friendships are phenomenal.”
Last week the Town Board presented Ellis with a special plaque to acknowledge and thank him for his long years of dedicated service to the town and to the people of Plattekill.
“It was very touching [and] I did get choked up. Its quite an honor,” he said. “Its still kind of weird not worrying about being called out in the snow. Its kind of like I’m waiting for the phone to ring and it’s not gonna,” he said.
Highway Superintendent Bobby Wager commented on Irving Ellis.
“I worked with Irv for 11 years and he has always been a dedicated, hard working and professional employee,” Wager said. “He held the position of Heavy Equipment Motor Operator and was proficient with a chainsaw. Irv always had a great relationship with the residents and fellow employees. He always maintained the equipment and quickly reported any deficiencies with the town’s infrastructure or equipment. His work ethic was outstanding and he will be missed.”
By Mark Reynolds