BRIGHTON — Recent extreme winter weather that included minus 20 to 30 degrees wind chill with blowing and drifting snow wasn’t easy on our members who work for long periods outdoors or in cold environments.

Many of you who work in cold environments, including highway crew members, sanitation workers, maintenance and grounds employees, parks workers, public works employees and emergency/ first response employees, were especially challenged during the recent cold snap that gripped most of New York state.

Yet, our members still delivered quality public services, as we do every day.

Despite the brutal cold bearing down on busy thoroughfares and sometimes quiet, frozen neighborhood cul-de-sacs, Town of Brighton Machine Equipment Operator Sonia Tafoya continues to do her best to keep her community’s public services up and running and moving in the right direction during the recent winter freeze.
“Our residents depend on basic public services to continue uninterrupted despite poor weather,” said Tafoya.

“The roads need to be passable, the sidewalks need to be plowed, schools and businesses want to stay open and we are on the job to make sure that happens and people stay extra safe during these tough winter conditions.”

“We’re already battling long hours, the snow and wind chill, but when it comes to snow removal, fixing emergency services with our sewer system, road repair and maintenance of our public buildings, the nasty wintry weather can add to our challenge,” said Tafoya.

Ready for the weather
Tafoya, a 19-year snowplow veteran with the Town of Brighton Highway Department, said she is no stranger to the cold.

“I’m originally from Arizona, but I love being outdoors in all seasons and I love helping others,” she said. “As a Native American, I have an affinity for any type of natural environment and a desire for my community to prosper.”

After almost two decades on the job, Tafoya still admits getting ready for work when the temperature dips below zero requires a little extra time before arriving for her shift.

Her secret to staying warm on frigid winter days and nights is a common theme for most employees who work outdoors — layers upon layers of clothing.

“You must layer up, wear a warm hat, and wear neck warmers to keep the cold out,” said Tafoya. “Just a lot of layers — I also bring several types of socks to work. And I always have plenty of gloves on hand, too — no pun intended.”

“Despite being behind the plow and outside in the frigid cold sometimes for hours at a time, we try our best to keep up with what Mother Nature deals us,” she said. “There is a lot of maintenance work that goes on behind the scenes to keep our trucks running and our equipment performing well. We take pride in what we do and we know our work is appreciated — especially when the weather is not cooperating. It can be very rewarding.”

— Ove Overmyer

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Ove Overmyer

Ove Overmyer is an award winning photojournalist and writer who has promoted the virtue of working people and the value of public service throughout his career. His work has been published by many well-respected international media outlets, including PBS Moyers & Co., Steward Update UCS Worker Institute Cornell ILR, CBS News, The Weather Channel, SCI-FY Channel, Associated Press and LOGO-TV. Before joining the CSEA Communications Department staff in 2015, Overmyer was a CSEA member employed by the City of Rochester and an officer of the union for more than 18 years. He covers a 14 county area of Western New York and lives in Rochester, NY.

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