A Touching Goodbye for the Garbage Man

Ricky Akers struggling while being honored by the county.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve attended a government meeting in an official capacity–as a reporter, as it were. This afternoon, backgrounding a story I’m writing for a magazine, I had to attend the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors meeting and I found myself fascinated with a couple of developments.

Honoring Anne Marie Green was more traditional.

First, there was Ricky Akers, a guy who looks like a Civil War Veteran, wearing overalls (not buttoned on the side vent, showing a bit of pudge)  accepting a resolution of appreciation from the county board for his work collecting trash for the past 37 years.

Rob Light, his supervisor, said some good things about Ricky, which seemed to move him. Rob asked if Ricky would like to speak and the old boy nodded. “I dedicated my life to my job,” he said, his voice breaking. He tried to continue, but his head went down, the tears came and the hearts of a room full of people were with him.

Ricky’s having trouble these days with gout and probably a simple case of wearing out because he’s been throwing around people’s trash for nearly four decades. Good for you, Ricky, and thank you, sir.

(Anne Marie Green, the county’s HR director retired after 30 years, but hers was more predictable with laudatory statements, thank-yous and general admiration that executives give each other.)

Reporters and their devices. Those beside me had laptops. I had a pen and paper.

On another matter, I noted–so to speak–that I was the only reporter in the room with a pen and a piece of paper, taking notes, writing on the agenda and in my notebook, as I always have. The young reporters were all collecting info with electronic devices. At one point, during a crucial presentation by the planning department, the electronics stopped working and I thought to myself, “If he had some poster-sized pictures, he wouldn’t be having this problem right now.” I felt vindicated.

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