SEASIDE - If the person inside the cab of Seaside's street sweeping machine waves at you, don't be surprised.
It's street sweeper Jesse Taylor. And when his hands aren't waving, they're busy keeping Seaside's streets clean and safe.
"I like being able to drive around and know people," the 24-year-old Seaside resident said. "I like that small-town feel."
Taylor is Seaside's official street sweeper and drives a top-of-the-line machine. He starts his day at 4:30 a.m. and sweeps Seaside's main streets while most people are still dreaming of an easy commute. It takes him about an hour to sweep the main roads, which he does every day. He sweeps the Promenade about once a week. The rest of the town is split into four sections, which get swept about once a month. He sweeps all streets that are not gravel.
After sweeping streets, Taylor also does maintenance around the public works building.
"He's a diligent, hard-working guy," Public Works Director Neal Wallace said. "He's shown he's got the ability and character to accept the responsibility of working pretty independently."
Taylor likens his machine to a "humongous vacuum." The machine is designed to be driven from either side, which makes it easier to follow the curb line. The machine operates from a large control panel inside the cab. Large rotating brooms sweep all gravel, dirt, garbage and other debris toward a pick-up head, which sucks it into a hopper. The hopper holds about four yards of debris which is emptied straight out the back, dump truck-style. Leaves are taken to the city's farm, garbage is sorted out and gravel is recycled for use when roads get icy. Since the winter storm two weeks ago, Taylor's been sweeping up a lot of gravel.
"The worst thing is puddles, because I suck the water up," he said. "Of course, I go through a lot of puddles around here. The machine kind of looks like a whale. It shoots water out of its top."
Taylor has lived in Seaside since he was in fifth grade. He recently purchased a family home with his brother-in-law, which he is remodeling to re-sell. He began working for the city's public works department about a year ago, as a member of its summer crew. He served on garbage detail and kept restrooms clean during the city's busiest months.
"I'm not a desk kind of guy," he said. "I like being on the move and I like to be able to get dirty. It's a perfect job for me. I've only ever gotten a thumbs-up from people. I've even had people call me and ask me when I'm coming, so they can move their car to make it easier to sweep the street."
Although not necessarily the most glamorous occupation, Taylor considers his work very important to the continued safety of the city's streets. When leaves fall and block storm drains, water backs up and floods streets. Leaves may also build up and cause a very slick surface. Gravel left on the road when it is no longer icy is slippery and broken glass is dangerous and damaging to vehicles and pedestrian's feet.
"I make a difference, even though I'm not inventing something new," he said. "It's not one of the "Important" jobs," but, really, it is."
Because Seaside is such a tourist town, Wallace considers sweeping the street an important aspect of keeping the town clean and attractive. But is also an ecologically-friendly job.
"What we clean up from the gutter lines and the streets is material that doesn't end up in the storm drains," he said. "That means more material that doesn't get flushed through the storm drains into the Necanicum and Neawanna."
During the winter, streets stay fairly clean. Taylor's busiest time is the summer and spring break, when the tremendous influx of tourists means more garbage on the street.
"There's a garbage can within 50 feet of anywhere," he said. "There's no reason why people should litter. I think a lot of people are just lazy. I guess there will always be a need for a street sweeper."
- Helen Warriner