Roderick Bell rides a street sweeper through town as the sun rises over Macon. He is headed to Fort Hill Street in East Macon at around 20 miles per hour.
Some people honk. Others just glare, but Bell knows why his job matters.
“If the leaves and everything pile into the gutter . . . it’s gonna flood,” he said. “If it’s not clean, it’s just it’s gonna be mayhem around here… I feel like we are very important.”
Bell, a Parks & Beautification Department Crew Leader, won a state street sweeper competition at the annual American Public Works Association Georgia Chapter Conference in Perry at the Public Works Equipment Show, according to a news release on the Macon-Bibb County website.
“It’s great to have this level of skill in our departments serving the community,” said Public Works Director Marvin Land, in the release. “Our crews in all the departments work hard day in and day out to clean up and maintain the county, and they deserve to be recognized.”
The competition had obstacle courses for street sweepers across Georgia to go through that simulated everyday working conditions. The course was timed, and points were deducted for hitting obstacles, according to the release.
“I do that all day, so it was really nothing,” he said with a laugh.
Bell said since he won, his crew members have been calling him the superman sweeperman.
“What motivates me is when I do a good job and I go back and I look at my work,” he said. “It just feel good later on that someone sees what I do and they really, really thank me for that.”
The three street sweepers who work in Parks & Beautification have collected nearly 500 tons of dirt and debris off the streets of Macon in the fiscal year of 2018, according to the release.
Bell, who has worked for the county since 2005, said they run the sweepers Monday through Thursday if they are working properly, and they start in areas that people in the community have requested to clean either by phone or SeeClickFix, a mobile and online service request system.
Bell said he has many other duties than riding on the street sweeper because he can operate a lot of different machinery.
“I’m what they call the slasher, like I do everything,” he said. “I do a lot of jobs.”
Kelly Bowden, the office assistant at Parks & Beautification, said Bell is one of the few people at the department who knows how to do everything, and he always steps up when they need him.
“It’s fun. You never know day to day what crazy thing he’s gonna come up with,” he said. “He’s always real uplifting and real upbeat at work. Everybody likes working with him.”
Bell said he wants people to understand the importance of his job and not see the sweepers as an annoyance.
“I really would like people, a lot of people, to recognize Parks & Beautification,” he said. “This small department packs a big bang in the community. Our guys go out, and we work hard for what we have, the little people that we have here.”