Putting in the time
By Paul Myers
lindsay – The Lindsay Chamber of Commerce 2016 Employee of the Year is more than just an employee. In fact he is the director of the Lindsay city services department. Charged with making sure all of the city’s clocks run on time and in a cost efficient manner, Mike Camarena has one big job to do.
For the past 26 years Camarena has been punching in at Lindsay City Hall, and while retirement is on the horizon, his day with Lindsay is not over quite yet. There is plenty of work left to be done before he turns over the keys and sets off toward the sunset. But Lindsay’s chamber awards are not about looking forward, instead they are about reflecting on influential community members have done. And for Camarena, when he reflects on his work, it is the city park – or better yet Centennial Park – that stands out in his mind.
Through the years Camarena has seen streets, construction, maintenance, inspections and many other types of projects come across his desk, but the Centennial Park project is what will last.
“The city park, new pool…everybody uses it, and it doesn’t cost you more than you’ve already paid,” stated Camarena.
He notes that the park is a nice focal point for the city and provides a place for city residents to come together. But more than that, the entire park is better for the residents and the City. Before construction began on the park in 2009, the old pool adjacent to the park cost the city tens of thousands of dollars to maintain. Since construction completed in early 2015 the Health and Wellness Center that now houses the city pool keeps costs much lower. More than that however, Camarena noted the new skate park and the expansion of the horseshoe pits.
“We always had the horseshoe pits but now we have the room to have tournaments if we wanted to,” Camarena said.
While the park looks great now, when it officially reopened there were problems that Camarena, nor could anyone else control. Because of the severe drought the park lost a lot of its newest trees, and grass was difficult to establish. Although now the park is vibrant and green due to recent storms giving the city the added benefit of saving on water.
Certainly that is the latest major project that Camarena can tack onto his resume, but it might be difficult for him to find the room. While Camarena may have started working for the City in 1991 as an Engineering Technician, he actually began working in the engineering field in 1980.
Having grown up in Porterville, it was only natural that Camarena attend Porterville College for his general education. But after two years of class work he felt it was time to start work, and that was when he started with an engineering consulting firm. What he learned there was that not all education needs to take place in a classroom. Instead it is about taking advantage of opportunities every day at work.
“Every day is an opportunity to be educated. The question is, can you absorb the information that comes at you,” stated Lindsay’s city services director.
Between 1991 and 2005, Camarena must have learned a lot because when his predecessor Tom McCurdy retired, the City offered Camarena the job. And according to Camarena what he and his team do every day is learn to deal with information coming at them, and then adjust accordingly. But one day, Camarena will retire from his post. However, before he moves on there is one project in particular that Camarena feels is left undone, and that is the city’s water system.
“I would like to leave Lindsay with a little more reliable water supply than we have now,” stated Camarena.