Resident defends workers criticized by another resident

Published 3:04 am Saturday, June 20, 2015

Washington resident Gerald Seighman believes another city resident is off base in his recent criticism of city employees.

Seighman spokes during the public-comments section of the City Council’s June 8 meeting, responding to remarks made during the council’s May 11 meeting by Howell Miller. During his remarks, Miller said he’s observed city fire trucks and ambulances in the Wal-Mart parking lot or at local restaurants as firefighters/EMTs were inside buying food as an officer sat inside the air-conditioned vehicle as it burned fuel. “Why are the fire trucks and ambulances allowed to waste city fuel?” he asked at the May 11 meeting. “Because somebody did not plan for their meals. This has to stop.”

Miller also said he’s seen other city employees and their supervisors take hour-long breaks at convenience stores in the mornings and afternoons.

“Why do they have to drive from wherever they’re working in the city to the Trade Wilco and waste the gas, fuel that I pay for as a taxpayer? Again, the management,” Miller said then.

Those comments, made during the public hearing on the upcoming city budget, did not sit well with Seighman.

“During the May 11 City Council meeting, a resident spoke negatively about our city employees. In reading the Washington Daily News, I read those same comments referencing employees taking long, hour breaks in the mornings and afternoons, and that driving to the Trade-Wilco (convenience store) being a waste of fuel,” Seighman said. “First, I question that anyone would go to a Trade-Wilco morning and afternoon and watch someone. If you do that, I think you have too much free time on your hands. Second, commons sense tells me that when a city employee requires a bathroom break, driving to a Trade-Wilco make actually be saving time and fuel as the alternative is to drive back to the city compound.”

Seighman was not finished.

“Now, with that being said, since retirement I also have observed our city employees. For example, my … recycles and yard waste disappear every week, whether it’s 20 degrees out, whether it’s 100 degrees outside or if it’s raining. Many times I observed they were working into their lunch hour,” he said. “I asked why. The reply was to finish that particular route so they would not have to come back. Now, to me, that’s professionalism.”

Seighman continued: “In closing, my recommendation to the resident that complained about our city employees, next time your electric power is knocked out due to a storm, go out and observe the city employees. They got out of a warm bed and are restoring your power in the wind and rain.”

Seighman’s comments drew applause from many attending the meeting.



About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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