It was a tiny tidbit of news and hardly broke the surface in terms of impact, but the small news brief last week said a whole lot about some of our public servants.

A Union County Public Works Department snowplow operator helped a stranded driver on Dec. 20 after the pickup he was driving slid into a ditch on Main Street in Summerville. The public works driver pulled the stuck pickup out of the ditch and then continued.

That’s it. Simple story.

Except there is more to this little story than meets the eye. The actions of the snowplow operator symbolize some of the good works done by our area public employees during the winter time. They also do a lot of work in the spring, and summer and autumn — no getting around that fact — but in those periods of the year their efforts are often easy to dismiss.

Not so during the busy winter months. Especially not so when a major storm — or a series of storms — descends on our great valley and ignites havoc.

Last week is a good example. A big winter storm rode roughshod over the area and closed the interstate in both directions. The road closures continued off and on throughout the week.

Yet even during those road closures, as countless people waited, Oregon Department of Transportation snowplows toiled on the freeway to try to get it clear even as more of the wet stuff continued to fall.

Sure, our public employees are paid. They secure a paycheck twice a month. And the worst kind of critic would wave off their efforts by the justification they secure taxpayer dollars and, therefore, think is an even tradeoff. The sad fact about that line of thinking — besides it being fundamentally wrong — is it misses the broader point. And that point is this: For every snow storm incident, there are a small group of people working to try to keep those roads open. Often, they do it in the worst conditions — when most of us are safely ensconced at home and warm — and during the nighttime hours. In a sense, it is a thankless job. But an
important one.

We often ignore or forget the crucial role such individuals provide for us. And it is easy, really, to forget that for every snowplow cruising down the highway there is a person behind the wheel, a human being who has family and goals and dreams. And what they are doing, out in the middle of a bad snow storm — like it or not — carries a certain degree of risk.

The actions by the county snowplow operator last week was a small incident compared to other world events but, in the end, it had more impact on us than some news happening on a foreign shore.

La Grande Observer | Published Dec 26, 2016 | Original source