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Cleaning, cleaning up is a big part of Parks Department work

Joe Kreiter of the Menomonee Falls Parks Department runs Danielle Switalski through the procedures to operate a zero-turn lawnmower in Menomonee Falls Rotary Park last week.

Joe Kreiter of the Menomonee Falls Parks Department runs Danielle Switalski through the procedures to operate a zero-turn lawnmower in Menomonee Falls Rotary Park last week. Photo By C.T. Kruger

Sept. 4, 2013

"If only you could walk a mile in my shoes." We've all read it, thought it, and most likely said it, but how many of us have actually tried it?

Every day, each of us wakes up and tackles the day. Some of us head to an office and are inundated with phone call after phone call. Others don a uniform and ready themselves to help those in need.

Though it would be impossible for me to walk a mile in everyone's shoes, I am bringing the adage to life. From sweeping floors to farming, I am taking myself out of my comfort zone and being put to work like never before at businesses around Germantown and Menomonee Falls.

Menomonee Falls — The parks don't clean themselves. I learned that firsthand as I swatted flies away from my face when I changed garbages in Rotary Park last week.

If there is one thing everyone should know after I worked with the Menomonee Falls Department of Public Works, it is the fact that I am now capable of driving a bulldozer. And, a tank for that matter. How? I learned how to drive one of the Parks Department's giant lawnmowers. Apparently, the way you drive the lawnmower using handle bars to move forward, backward and turn, is the same system used in tanks and bulldozers. I must say I felt pretty manly when I learned that.

Driving the lawnmower was only a small part of my morning working with Joe Kreiter, crew leader for the Parks Department (which is part of DPW) on Aug. 28. Kreiter is responsible for maintaining 55 acres of village-owned land known as Rotary Park. If it's raining, snowing, sleeting or the sun is shining, he is working at the park or takes to the village streets to make sure they are safe for the public. He helps plow snow in the winter, checks the ice on the ponds so they are safe to skate, cuts down wasp nests if they are too close to the public paths, cleans up vandalism, cuts all of the grass in the park and removes hazardous tree branches if they are close to falling. Above all else, he said, is public safety.

There's a reason village parks are well manicured and litter free. It's because of people like Kreiter, who has worked with the Parks Department for 28 years.

When I stumbled into the DPW building on Good Hope Road not fully awake yet, Kreiter was ready to roll. I cannot say the same for myself.

Litter hawk

It didn't take long for me to realize that he takes great pride in one of the village's largest amenities. As we were driving around unlocking the bathrooms for the day, on numerous occasions he would pull over, hop out of the truck and pick up a piece of litter on the side of the road. He has eyes like a hawk. As the day went on, I was the one who hopped out of the truck to pick up the litter. We became a well-oiled machine. Like I said, parks don't clean themselves.

Our main goal for the morning was to prepare Rotary Park for a 400-plus person cross country meet scheduled the following day. Step one, clean the bathrooms.

I thought I was going to have to exercise mind over matter to its fullest extent. Not because of the dirt, but because of the bugs. I also assumed the boys bathroom would be disgusting. Don't they miss sometimes?

As we stepped into the boys' restroom, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Oddly enough, the girls bathroom was more messy than the boys, and I only spotted one spider. My apologies for stereotyping. I helped change the soap and paper towels. Then, I sprayed the entire bathroom with a water/bleach mix to sanitize it. I pictured myself laughing maniacally at the thought of all the germs meeting their bleach-soaked demise. Kreiter then hosed off all of the bleach and I used a squeegee to push all the excess water into the bathroom drain.

We did the same thing in the girls restroom. I made sure to use the bathroom when I was done. There was no way I was going to clean a bathroom without reaping the reward.

We put new bags in every garbage can in the park, cleaning the picnic areas along the way.

Heavy equipment

I wrapped up my workday by putting the finishing touches on the park in preparation for the cross country meet. To do so, Kreiter taught me how to drive the lawnmower. It was easier than I thought and I didn't crash into a single tree.

The task was moving some of the 350-pound picnic tables from one end of the park to the other. I tied rope around the picnic tables and towed them with the lawnmower. They were strategically placed next to garbage cans we also moved.

From walkers to bikers and children using the playgrounds, I saw dozens of people pass through Rotary Park that day. The park is a benefit to the entire village. It's guaranteed to stay that way as long Kreiter is around.

WHY THIS JOB IS FUN

· working outside when it's nice out

· driving a giant lawnmower

· rewarding work of public safety and well-groomed parks

WHY THIS JOB IS DIFFICULT

· work in rain, snow, sleet or sunshine

· heavy lifting

· battle bugs

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