'Seal' of excellence
If members of the Estacada Public Works team are unsure of the exact location of a buried pipeline, they can simply ask Tom Seal.
"It's all up here (in my head). The guys will say 'it's not on the map.' I'll go up there and say 'it's over here,'" said Seal, Estacada's public works director. "I have dug everywhere in this town. I know where everything is as far as water and sewer."
On the job since 1987, Seal is the city's most long-standing employee. After working in construction for several decades, Seale was hired as a utility worker by previous Estacada Public Works Director Les Kiggins.
Since his earliest days working in the field, Seal has appreciated several elements of the position.
"It was rewarding to work in those utilities, fix things and have a good product at the end," he said. "There's a variety. It's not all just one department, and not the same old thing."
Seal was appointed public works director in 2009 and supervises a team of five employees who are responsible for maintaining the city's water and sewer system, streets and parks.
Seal said he didn't expect to become the department's director, and the position was a big switch.
"I had never been in an office type surrounding before. There are a lot of different things I had to learn," he said. "It helped me to have worked in the field. Now, I sit at a desk, but I know what the men go through to do the work, and I can make their lives easier."
Seal noted that Estacada's growth in housing and population stands out as a significant change over the years. Since the 2010 census, Estacada has had a growth rate of 26 percent, making it the eighth fastest growing city in the state.
"When I started, we had 680 water meters. Now, we have over 1,400," he said. "We've grown quite a bit. . .It's a neat feeling to see the town expand."
He added that the growth keeps his department busy.
"We have more of a workload on the public works department because we need to extend streets, sewer mains and water meters," he said.
When a new subdivision is built, Seal oversees inspections for buildings, sewer lines and curbs, among other elements.
"We ensure everything is done to the city's standards," he said.
Of the new housing developments that the city has seen over the last several years, one that particularly stands out to Seal is Campanella Estates, located at Southeast Eagle Creek Road and Northwest 10th Avenue. The subdivision spans 71.44 acres and will consist of 316 homes built over the course of the next 10 years.
"It will have a big park. It's pretty neat," Seal added.
Seal was also involved with the 2015 Broadway Street renovations, working with city engineers since he knew the location of previous water and sewer lines.
"It was really important for the downtown core area," he said.
Seal and his team are also tasked with ensuring the roads are safe as can be during inclement weather, using de-icer during freezing temperatures and plowing and sanding roads during snow.
"We try to keep things open so people can get out of town if they need go to work, or get back to their houses," he said.
Seal noted that it's often difficult to predict what his work day will be like.
"There are a lot of ups and downs. I come to work thinking I'll make a schedule and do certain things, but things go in a different direction and that schedule goes away," he said.
He appreciates solving problems while on the job.
"It makes me feel good when we find a problem that can be fixed and we go fix it. It makes me go home in the evening and feel good about what we've accomplished," he said.