Ross Whitaker helps keep city facilities running and does it with a smile
It is often said the little things in life are taken for granted.
In the winter, our city sidewalks are shoveled and salted for ease of travel. Turn on the faucet in a city office building and fresh, filtered water jets out. Enter an elevator and you avoid hundreds of stairs with the simple push of a button.
But when that incessant flickering light above your desk consumes all of your focus or the AC has broken for the third time this week, the little things become big things – things that require us to stop, request a repair, and then appreciate.
For Ross Whitaker, problem solving is in his blood. An Equipment Operator with the Salt Lake City Facilities Division, Ross deals with the everyday problems we typically take for granted.
“I’ve done it all,” said Ross, and he’s not kidding. From inspecting elevators and building furniture, to water pipe maintenance and cleaning up after vandals, Ross tackles the near-endless array of tasks involved in city upkeep. “I take pride in every building” he said.
“Ross is a prime example of our dedicated city employees,” said Mayor Jackie Biskupski. “He’s friendly and professional, and he helps our city run better by ensuring city facilities are in the best possible condition.”
A Salt Lake City native, Ross held his first job at a local machine shop. While cleaning tools and sharpening knives, a strong interest in fixing things evolved. It was later at Smith’s Ballpark, formerly Franklin Covey Field, where he would begin his 16 years of facilities maintenance.
“I began part time and worked my way up to become the head groundskeeper,” Ross said, “and from there I found a job opening at the Facilities Division.” That opening would require him to further his education. Through hard work and persistence, Ross completed his Associates Degree in Facilities Maintenance at Salt Lake Community College in 2010.
When asked about some of his most challenging jobs, Ross gave a noteworthy response. “No task is better or worse than the rest,” he said. “I enjoy them all. Life is stressful but it’s important to just always be happy.”
That positive outlook and work ethic has served Ross well, especially during one of the darkest phases of his life. On a seemingly normal day in November 2012, Ross was working on the top penthouse of the old Public Safety Building. Nine floors up and the unimaginable happened: Ross fell an entire floor and broke his neck severely.
Doctors prepared Ross for the potential of permanent paralysis. His cervical vertebrae injury was similar to the one that paralyzed the late actor Christopher Reeve. It took eight months, but he eventually healed and returned to work.
While his neck movement is now limited, Ross’ commitment to his job continues.
“I treat everyone like my customers and the connections are what I enjoy the most,” Ross said. His resilience and enthusiasm for life have been noted for years by city employees, with the latest cheers coming from the team at the Salt Lake City Justice Court.
“Ross is always available, always knows what to do and how to do it right, and always gets it done quickly” said Judge John Baxter.
“He’s a beacon of light everywhere he goes” said Tiffani McGinty, “He’s funny and a joy to have around.”
“His work ethic is the best I have witnessed in any public or private entity. He deserves the key to the city, not just the maintenance keys” said Jennifer Miller.
And the list of positive remarks goes on.
Ross Whitaker improves city employees’ lives, which in turn should make the public’s experience better, too. Next time you visit a city building to pay a parking ticket, attend a meeting, or see the Mayor, Ross may very well be working away in the hallway. Stop and give him a wave.