After working 23 years for the Brownstown Street Department, Phil Owens has moved on up.
The Brownstown Town Council named Owens the interim street superintendent during its Jan. 6 meeting after Dale Shelton announced his retirement. Shelton’s last day of working for the town after 29 years of service was Jan. 15.
During the Jan. 21 council meeting, Owens was unanimously selected to take over as the town’s street superintendent.
“I appreciate it very much,” the 58-year-old said. “At least they know all of these years I’ve been here and I’ve done everything I could do. I appreciate what they’ve done to help me, and they appreciate all of the hard work all of these years, too.”
After announcing his retirement, Shelton recommended that the council have Owens fill his spot.
“He just asked me, and I said I’d take it if they wanted me to have it,” Owens said. “Dale has been a real good superintendent. He’s kind of the same as me — he has always worked with cars and trucks, so he could do all of that, and I could do a lot of it, so it has worked out real good. Plus, he always showed some of the stuff he knew out on the street also, and it was a really big plus.”
Owens has lived in Brownstown for most of his life. After graduating from Brownstown Central High School in 1979, he was a mechanic at Hamilton Motors Ford for a couple of years and also drove semitrailers.
He then spent about 10 years working at Jim and Linda Wheeler’s Marathon station, where he pumped gas and did mechanic work, including oil changes and tires.
About a year before the Wheelers sold their business to make way for a Huck’s gas station, Owens found out the town’s street department was hiring.
“Somebody just came in and wanted to know if I would be interested,” he said.
He immediately said yes, applied and was hired.
“I had good people to work with — still do — and I like being outside,” he said. “Some places or in factories, you can’t tell if the sun is shining or not. And it’s something different all the time.”
Just recently, Owens went from capturing two stray dogs to working on a sewer to preparing a snowplow.
“It hasn’t changed a whole lot, believe it or not. Sweep the curves, broom and shovel the dirt up, mow, weedeating, work on sewers, animal control, I’ve done that,” he said. “Everybody does everything, and that works out good.”
In his new role, Owens still does all of those things, but it comes after he does paperwork. As superintendent, he has to make schedules for employees and keep up on OSHA requirements, and he has to attend the town council’s department head meeting once a month.
“There’s a little extra paperwork, not a whole lot,” he said. “I’ve been to a board meeting or two when Dale was off before, so now, I just have another board meeting. Other than that, I’ll do everything that we’ve always done.”
Right now, the only other street department employee is Shawn Ross. Over the years, Owens said there typically have been three employees. Plus, at one point, they also hired seasonal help.
“We have two at the sewer plant, so if somebody needs help, we can ask them,” he said. “Scott Hunsucker, the wastewater superintendent, he’s a big help. He knows it all, so if there’s something I don’t know, we work good.”
The street department also maintains the town’s vehicles. The council recently approved the purchase of a dump truck/snowplow, and Owens said it will be ready to use after lettering is placed on it.
“That makes it a whole lot easier to keep the snow cleaned off the roads and just do basic work when you’ve got nicer vehicles,” he said.
Throughout his time with the street department, Owens said he has enjoyed interacting with residents and helping resolve issues.
“It’s still a small town. You pretty well know most of the people, and it’s nice to be able to help out,” he said. “People walk up and thank you when you do something, which really makes it nice.”
Owens’ plan is to continue the good work of the street department.
“Right now, I think I’m just going to try to keep it like we’ve been doing. It has worked all of these years,” he said. “We’re just going to try to run it like it has always been run when Dale was here. We keep the streets patched, storm drains, just keep the town looking as nice as we can.”
Owens is happy to keep serving his hometown.
“I’m going to stay as long as I can,” he said, smiling.
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Owens file” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
Name: Phil Owens
Education: Brownstown Central High School (1979)
Occupation: New street superintendent in Brownstown; he has worked for the street department for 23 years