CLEVELAND — The week of May 15-21 is National Public Works Week.

It’s a job that some may consider dirty, but Mandy Bruncak said she doesn’t mind.

What You Need To Know

  • National Public Works Week is May 15-21

  • The week celebrates the people who help build, clean and maintain cities

  • There are many types of public works and public utility jobs including sewer maintenance, street cleaning, trash removal, electric work and more

  • In Cleveland, public utilities include Water Pollution Control, Cleveland Division of Water and Cleveland Public Power

Mandy Bruncak, Sewer Service Laborer, City of Cleveland Water Pollution Control (Taylor Bruck/Spectrum News 1)

“I get to play in dirt all day, and I love the people I work with,” Bruncak said.

She’s a sewer service laborer for the City of Cleveland Water Pollution Control (WPC).

“I’m the first one to jump in and be like, let’s go. Let’s do this,” she said.

She’s one of hundreds of employees who work in public works and public utilities jobs in Cleveland. She said her favorite part about her job is that each day brings something new.

“It’s always a new puzzle,” Bruncak said. “You never know what’s going to happen. Even though you’re going to the same job over and over again, it’s new every time you break ground.”

At WPC, she’s one of five women who work in the field. Besides breaking stereotypes, she said she enjoys having a job that is considered essential for the well-being of society.

“I’m a hands-on type of person,” she said. “I like to work with people that think they’re superior over women. Because then I can prove that women can do the job, too, if they put their mind to it.”

Bruncak said public works and utility jobs improve people’s quality of life. From trash and snow removal to tree cutting, sewer maintenance, electric line work, operating high-tech equipment and even customer service, jobs in the public sector are abundant. 

Jobs in the public sector include, but are not limited to:

Public Utilities

  • Cleveland Water Pollution Control
  • Cleveland Public Power
  • Cleveland Water

Public Works

  • Waste Collection
  • Streets
  • Curbside Recycling Parks and Recreation
  • Urban Forestry

Public Safety

  • Police
  • Fire
  • Emergency Medical Service (EMS)

“If we didn’t do what we do and help clean all the storm drains, and if we didn’t clean the catch basins, if we didn’t clean the mains, everything will end up in your house. But with us, we maintain everything and we clean it to let everything flow,” Bruncak said. 

For about 30 years, Cleveland Water Pollution Control has coordinated and hosted the National Public Works and Safety Week Open House for the city of Cleveland. The open house is an event open to grades K-6 in Cleveland’s public and private schools.

Ramona Lowery, Commissioner of the city of Cleveland Division of Water Pollution Control (Taylor Bruck/Spectrum News 1)

More than 2,000 students, teachers and parents attend the annual event at the WPC property on Kirby Avenue. It’s a chance for the children to be up close with public works and safety professionals, ask questions, explore the equipment and vehicles used and more. The pandemic canceled the event for the past two years, but Ramona Lowery, the commissioner for WPC, is looking forward to next year. 

As many people are aging out of public works and utility jobs, Lowery is working to recruit young, hard workers.

“We just like for them to know it’s a career, not a job. Oportunity to make a difference in their community and a big impact,” Lowery said. “Everyone, as they always say, is not going to college. And that’s fine. There’s a lot of skills, there’s a lot of trades, and those are all very essential needs as well.”

Employees in public works and utilities help build, clean and maintain the city.

Ways to reduce water pollution

“Stop flushing disposable wipes,” said Austin Yorko, a unit leader for WPC. “They’re not flushable. They make our job harder and they make your basement flooded. Don’t flush those and grease. Don’t put grease down your drains people. It’s disgusting. Don’t do it.”

Austin Yorko, Unit Leader, City of Cleveland Water Pollution Control (Taylor Bruck/Spectrum News 1)

And on the streets, only rain he said should go down the storm drains. No grass clippings, trash or leaves — just rain.  

Yorko said he finds his job to be rewarding. 

“You go home with a sense of accomplishment, you know, work on the city infrastructure, make sure nobody has to sit with backup in their basement or smelling foul odors,” Yorko said. “Try to help the people as much as we can.”

As people walk the city streets during National Public Works Week, Lowery encourages them to thank the workers they see because she said they really are the backbone to the community.

“Happy National Public Works week and for all of the utilities and the departments, we are definitely stronger together,” said Lowery. 

There are apprenticeship programs for many of the jobs in public works and public utilities. For more information about the apprenticeship program for the City of Cleveland’s Water Pollution Control, click here