Bridge said Gonzales would be ending a 41-year career with the city when he stepped out of the vehicle at the end of the day. He has been the city’s foreman and head operator for many years.
“He’s operated every piece of heavy equipment the city has,” Bridge said. “I’ve been with the city 32 years, and I have yet to see somebody so dedicated. He’s really going to be missed.”
Meanwhile, Gonzales sat in the cab of the machine, doing his job and smiling. Bridge finally was able to coax a thumbs up from the 63-year-old employee.
Gonzales has had a knack for picking special days to begin and end his career. His first day on the job 41 years ago was April Fool’s Day. His last official day was Valentine’s Day.
Gonzales began his career with the street department, then moved to the city’s sanitary landfill in 1980s to operate the big bulldozer.
Bridge said when the landfill closed in 1990, Gonzales returned to the street department.
Gonzales kept right on pulling levers on that big machine, never venturing out of the cab. It was as if he didn’t want to quit pulling those levers because he knew it would be the last time he would get to operate one of the city’s big machines.
After all, Bridge said, he had been pulling those levers for more than four decades.
Bridge knows the feeling of operating a piece of big, heavy equipment. It was how he got started with the city.
Bridge said Gonzales has always been the first street department employee to show up for work and the last one to leave in the evening.
“I shouldn’t say this, but what I’m going to miss most is the coffee he makes every morning,” Bridge said.