21/11/2008 - Harold Calls it a Day After 32 Years
There is not a better face to wear pride than Harold Potter’s.
|Harold Potter, recipient of the Rotary Pride in Workmanship Award (click to enlarge)|
“The award means a lot,” he said.
“It means I’ve been appreciated for my contribution to Council, the way I manage things and get the job done. I accept it with great honour.”
Harold’s face beamed pride to the audience and to his wife Lyn and council colleagues who proudly joined him to celebrate his achievement.
He started his working life with the Main Roads Department in Warwick at age 18, as the offsider to the Grader Driver. Harold obviously proved himself a valuable employee to Main Roads and was quickly elevated to Ganger and then Foreman, all by the time he was 21.
He said, “the first real job of my own was the upgrade of the Eight-Mile, which required changing the old T-style intersection to a similar, but smaller configuration of what you see today.”
In the early 70’s, workplace health and safety became a big issue and with the introduction of a new Act and Regulations, came an opportunity for Harold to take on the Safety Officer role for Main Roads District No. 5. Unquestionably his time at Main Roads was a brilliant training ground for him to eventually step off into local government – he’d worked on bridges and culverts, Cunningham Gap jobs, as well as the Stanthorpe by-pass.
Harold joined the Warwick City Council on May 31, 1976, just after the big flood, as Council’s Works Foreman. “Almost overwhelming” is how he described his job interview after facing an interview panel of the Mayor, Town Clerk, City Engineer, Works Committee Chairman, Works Committee Member and the Overseer in charge.
In those early days priorities included massive flood restoration work and work on the Connolly Dam spillway. At the time of the ’76 flood, a lot of work had gone into on-site construction of pipes to replace the Wallace Street Bridge. It must have been a strange sight then to see the ’76 flood waters pick those pipes up and float them downstream. Subsequently the bridge didn’t end up being replaced until some years later.
According to Harold, it was a big job trying to introduce safe working practices into Warwick City Council and one of his first challenges was to stop workers travelling to and from job sites in the back of utes and trucks, a practice which had ceased at Main Roads much earlier. Harold also had a task to introduce shoring for trench work and to enforce the use of personal protective equipment.
In the late 70’s Harold sat an Overseer’s exam and with the 1981 retirement of long-serving Foreman-In-Charge, Bill Cousins, Harold was appointed to the position of Overseer, with responsibility for water, sewerage and works staff.
Harold’s recollection of Warwick City firsts includes: the first roundabout at the H&J corner; the first traffic lights at the Palmerin/Grafton Street intersection; the first Streetscape scheme in the late 80’s which also included a strong sandstone element; the first big council-managed subdivisions in the Shilliday and Redgwell Street areas which were followed by bigger subdivisions like the Golf Links and Cinema Heights Stage 1.
After a few more recollections, Harold acknowledges he’s “seen some things come and seen some things go”.
“We’ve lost some big business but there’s been something there to take its place,” he said. Incoming developments included the TAFE, Big W, Wickham’s, Rose City Shoppingworld - the Woollen Mills came and went - and the Dairy went.
In his years with Council, Harold witnessed major expansion of sewered areas and the upgrade of the Warwick water supply and new pump stations at Churchill Drive and the Water Treatment Plant.
Off-street car parking also became a focus for Council with the construction of the Acacia Avenue car park and the expansion of the Town Hall car park. The Town Hall car park extension came at a cost – the demolition of the council-owned pub – The Australian Hotel or The Aussie as it was affectionately known. Not too many Councils could say they owned a pub.
Council was the first to have a two-way communication system and it was a bit tricky with a Scottish Engineer and a Dutch Draftsman. Harold’s coping mechanism for the language challenges was to pretend there was interference through the two-way and ask for the message to be repeated.
Longevity in an organisation offers a great appreciation of some of the characters met along the way and there is never a shortage of council yarns to go with the characters. The tale of the small truck stolen from the Yangan Road Depot.
“Three days later we spotted the truck heading south and gave chase. We called the Police and they joined the chase, with the driver apprehended 40 kilometres away.”
It’s almost a case of don’t steal anything on Harold’s shift – he’ll give chase and you will be caught.
You know you’ve been around Council a while when you can tell the story of a guy who rode his bike around the streets, complete with a hoe, shovel and rake, to clean out culverts and drains.
“He’d go from job to job, chipping gutters and leaving little heaps of rubbish to be picked up later,” Harold said.
“Later was always a Friday and Overseer at the time, Bill Cousins, called it the ‘Milk Run’, to pick up the rubbish from this guy’s work for the week.”
The “best thing we ever got” was how Harold described the purchase of the CBD street sweeper. It made life a lot easier in the preparation and clean-up of reseals, as well as accidents.
Other innovations in Harold’s working life include the introduction of pre-mixed concrete, bigger and more powerful tip trucks as well as crew-cab vehicles which are purposefully built to carry work crews, and mobile phones and pagers.
After 32 years of council life, Harold won’t miss all the early morning and late night phone calls but he does admit these have lessened thanks to the introduction of the after-hours call service. What he will miss is the camaraderie of his workmates. “Smoko’s and lunchtimes at Yangan Road and the jokes and laughs” are at the top of his list.
His retirement plan doesn’t include grand travel plans and that’s probably a good thing given the sad Australian dollar at the moment. For Harold, retirement will be about building a new home with plenty of time spent on new gardens, as well as spending time with his family and grandkids. “I’ll try and keep myself occupied and from under my wife’s feet,” he jokes.
Always the gentleman, Harold was quick to thank council staff for their cooperation, contribution and efforts. He is particularly grateful to the outside staff for their workmanship.
“I have received great satisfaction out of deploying people and organising resources to carry out Council’s work. It could be very demanding but I feel very rewarded,” he said.
Harold’s final day with Council will be Thursday, 27 November.
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