Hubbard celebrates career of Jaime Estrada
After 41 years, Jaime Estrada is saying goodbye to his Public Works career in Hubbard.
While 41 years seems like a long time, the Woodburn resident was very young when he started. Calculating that his 62nd birthday was approaching, he jumped at the opportunity to retire. In fact, his retirement party at Hubbard City Hall last Wednesday was his birthday, two days before his last day on the job.
Michael Krebs, a current public works foreman who has worked alongside Estrada for 25 years, is in position to take over as superintendent.
Born in Mexico, Estrada, who is known as Joel among family members, grew up in Woodburn, having moved with his family in 1967.
After 11th grade, he was obligated to leave school and help support the family, but he still wanted to get his GED. He took a technical course in Portland to be a car mechanic, then landed a short-term job with the city of Woodburn. He was invited to temporarily replace someone in the public works department in Hubbard, but then that person ended up not going back to work.
"That worked out very well for me," Estrada chuckled. "I wasn't sure how long I was going to be in Hubbard. I thought maybe a month or so. It turned into a long career."
In 1993, when the old public works superintendent retired, Estrada applied and was named the head of the department.
As superintendent of Hubbard Public Works, Estrada has been in charge of wastewater treatment, wastewater collection, water treatment, water distribution, parks and streets.
"When I started there were five of us – and we doubled the population," he said, noting there are still only five today. "We have to subcontract (some projects). Say I have to replace a fire hydrant, I may not have the crew … so it frees us to take care of our work. I have a good staff here that has been helping me and we all do our part and make sure everything is synchronized. We learn from each other."
He admitted his job might not sound glamorous – especially duties surrounding wastewater, which he admitted he was most hesitant about working with – but he said he learned to really enjoy his work.
"There's a lot more than glamor, you need personal satisfaction with what you do," he said. "We provide a service, people depend on what you do, that's critical to me. Where I see myself is taking personal pride of what you do. … What I like most is the diversity that I have."
But the job has definitely come with its ups and downs. Just a couple years ago, the city was under a boil water notice.
"That was the most critical," Estrada recalled.
Another delicate situation he oversaw was upgrading the wastewater facility with plenty of hiccups along the way working with the Department of Environmental Quality.
"It didn't go as intended," he said. "That was a challenging experience. You don't want to get DEQ upset."
But most of his time in Hubbard has been a success. He said he's most proud of a $2 million upgrade to the water treatment facility in 2000.
"That was taking care of future needs," he said. "It's one of my major undertakings."
The miles and miles of roads and 13 acres of park his department maintains are also a source of pride.
Estrada has seen a lot of changes to the business in his 41 years on the job, the last 25 of which he's led the department.
"When I took over, there was not as much regulation – there was some, but not as much as now," he remembered. "A lot more paperwork has to be done. We have plans that have to be updated yearly or every five years."
There are some things he won't see through to completion, like the water master plan study, but he said he'll still provide input.
But for the most part, his retirement will be spent with his three children, three young grandchildren (who live with him), his yard, his church (St. Luke Catholic Church, where he helps with holiday baskets and is a member of Knights of Columbus) and possibly travel, assuming his wife, who is still working, can schedule it in.
"My challenge is to keep myself occupied," he admitted.
Estrada is happy to be retiring but he will miss his work.
"I think I have had some wonderful council members and mayors to work with, including the administration at City Hall and the police department," Estrada said. "We always have a good working relationship, which makes my job easier, to know I have support there.
The simple fact is I enjoy the work, and I got to meet all these people here in Hubbard."