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Lewis cleans up with state Public Works honor

Town of Signal Mountain Public Works general manager David Lewis, who reaches retirement age next month, is celebrating, but it isn’t because of the nearness of a time when the toughest thing he’ll have to do is get out of bed — if he wants.

At the last Signal Mountain Town Council meeting, local officials honored him with a resolution celebrating his recent Award of Merit from the Tennessee Chapter of the American Public Works Association.

According to the resolution, “The Town Council of the town of Signal Mountain, Tenn., commends and congratulates David Lewis … and encourages the citizens of the town, who will no doubt recognize David who — on his own time — will be the first one on the streets during snow and ice events to ensure their safety, to do the same.”

In light of the winter months ahead, Lewis said he and his staff are prepared for any harsh weather conditions.

Though he says he is not expecting too rough of a winter, they are installing a brine system in Public Works trucks and already have salt spreaders in place, with 130-140 tons of salt on standby.

“I’ll be 65 in February,” said Lewis. “I’m hoping to work until at least 68. I don’t know what I would do if I had to sit at home.”

Even after he retires he hopes to keep working part time, he said. He has worked for the town of Signal Mountain for 26 years.

Each morning, Lewis begins work at 7:30 a.m., assigning his crews to tackle the day-to-day maintenance of the town. From collecting garbage, brush and leaves to maintaining the town’s vehicles to controlling stormwater, Lewis is widely known as the first person to actively ensure the town’s safety and well-being.

“[The job] changes daily,” he said. “One of the things I’m proud of, we being a small town, we try to stay on the cutting edge. We try to stay on anything that’s new and cost effective.”

Lewis said one of his proudest moments on the job was when he was able to save the town a possible half-million dollars or more by thinking through the problem of a flooded culvert located beneath Timberlinks Road. The blocked culvert was causing water to flood, sometimes up to 20 feet high, around the road.

Instead of spending the money to replace the culvert, Lewis was able to figure out a more cost effective way to fix the problem by installing a system of check dams. These continuously keep dirt and leaves from clogging the culvert, he explained.

“I love just being able to get something accomplished; when a job’s done, it’s gratifying,” he said.

Lewis grew up in Red Bank and previously operated his own service station. Though he didn’t receive a college degree, he took many classes and became a sort of self-made mathematician, working several accounting jobs after his schooling.

In his position as general manager with the Public Works Department, Lewis still gets to feed his passion for continuous learning.

“The town gave me the opportunity to go out and learn and go to classes. I really enjoy that,” he said.

He also said his favorite things about his job, besides the feeling of accomplishment he gets from completing each task, are the people he works with.

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