Don Raway, an eight-year member of Local 49, has seen a lot working as a heavy equipment operator for the St. Paul Regional Water Services.
As winter approaches, this becomes Ranway’s busy season, as water mains tend to bust in the dead of winter.
“Most of St. Paul’s underground infrastructure is from the late 1800’s, so when it gets below freezing water mains can break,” Raway said.
Raway explained that since water mains are usually the deepest lines, other than sewer lines, it presents particularly difficult challenges to try and dig to fix the broken mains.
“There’s not much room in downtown St. Paul, and it’s time consuming to just try and control the main…we’ll spend hours and hours scraping ice just to get the equipment there so the locators can come in,” he said.
“There’s quite a few hours spent doing work before we can come in and fix anything,” Raway added.
Raway recalled one water main break in particular where the ice was four to six inches high and stretched out curb to curb across the street.
“We loaded out ice in tandems just so we could get to the street,” Raway said.
Prior to his time with the St. Paul Regional Water Services, Raway worked for the St. Paul Parks & Recreation Department as the assistant grounds keeper at Midway Stadium – home of the St. Paul Saints.
“When I started that field was mainly built for VFW and legion teams where you might see a couple hundred people there on a busy day,” Raway said. “As the Saints popularity grew, that all changed.”
What began as a fairly low key job from Raway as the assistant grounds keeper, turned into something much more high profile.
“All of the changes kind of blindsided everyone…We would average over 6,000 people a night in a facility that was built for maybe 3,000 people,” Raway said.
After leaving the Parks department and starting with the St Paul Regional Water Services, Raway said he always gravitated toward heavy equipment.
“It’s something I had a little bit of experience with when I was in the Parks Department, but even since I was a little boy it was always something I gravitated to,” Raway said.
Raway even advocated that his department receive training at the Operating Engineers Local 49 Training Center.
“Myself and my business agent Mark Pothen worked with the city to have our training facilitated through the (Local 49) Training Center,” Raway said.
Raway explained that the city would not allow employees to travel down to the Training Center for training, but with the efforts from Raway and Business Agent Mark Pothen, the city agreed to have the instructors and equipment from the Training be brought to them.
“We seemed to get much more competent heavy equipment operators, and we received much better training than in previous years,” he added.
Raway is also very active in his community as the youth football coach for the past five years, and a member of the Forest Lake Wrestling Booster Club for the past four years.
“I’m very passionate about it, and it’s something I just love to do,” he said.
Raway is equally involved within Local 49 outside of being a member, as he’s been a Local 49 Steward for the past five years.
Raway said he is very grateful for Local 49, and for the training he received from the Local 49 Training Center.
IUOE Local 49 represents more than 2,200 public sector members throughout the state. The individual cities and counties Local 49 represents can be found on the Member’s Only section of our website. If you are an active member of Local 49 please visit members.local49.org and register to have access.