35-year employee still likes going to work
By Annette C. Silva
"Did you know that our superintendent of public works, Robert Handy, will have been
with us for 35 years on August 20?" asked Roberta Glenn, Delmar town manager. "You
should do a story on him."
Good idea. What does the superintendent of public works do? Let's ask Robert
Whom do people call when the water pressure is low? When the lights fail or a water
spigot breaks and they can't find the emergency valve? When the sewer backs up?
When someone trashes the park? When a traffic light malfunctions? Whose phone rings
at all hours when an alarm goes off at the water plant? Whether signaling a
malfunctioning pump, a chlorine leak or a failed generator, it rings at Robert
Handy's cell or home phone and he's answered the call for 35 years.
Happily, now that new systems are installed in Delmar, these things don't happen
often, "but I've gotten my share of calls in the night," said Handy. As
superintendent of public works, he's on call seven days a week and 24 hours a day.
Handy, however, says he loves coming to work everyday. "I enjoy helping people
solve problems," he says.
Delmar, whose destiny it is to be divided in the middle to serve two states, has
recently overhauled its water system, with new mains, a water tower and a modern
brick building replete with high-tech computers. These computers regulate pump
action, measure pressure and run automatic back-up systems. Other mechanisms test
mineral residuals, count bacteria and control chlorine and flourine input. The new
water tower, one of two in the town, stores half a million gallons of water, Handy
said. "Delmar uses approximately 300,000 gallons of water a day."
Handy, 56, started out as foreman for public works; in 1975, he was named
superintendent and has been serving ever since.
Originally from Hebron, he moved to Delmar in 1965 after he was discharged from the
U.S. Army. He lives in Delmar with his wife Evelyn. The Handys have two children
and four grandchildren.
In Delmar, everyone who works for the city has dual bosses: there are two mayors, a
Delaware city council and a Maryland city commission. "My main responsibility is
to sit on the public works commission," said Handy, and it meets once a month.
Having just gone through what he says is "one of the biggest projects Delmar has
done since I've been on the job," (a reference to the new water system), he says it
was a very necessary and good thing for the town. "Other exciting new things are
happening in Delmar—we'll be getting new and restored sewer lines and some
annexation of new properties."
To keep up with the technology, Handy has taken courses at DelTech in sanitary
technology, floridation, chlorination, public safety, water and wastewater
treatment and a whole host of other courses relating to public works. "To keep my
Maryland certification I have to take 30 credits a year," he said.
"It doesn't seem like 35 years," he added. "I just keep getting up and going to
work - it's never boring. I like the people I work for and I like to keep busy."