This article appears in the February 2012 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit Lou.com.
She’s a crew leader for the city’s Public Works department and has driven a salt truck, which doubles as a snowplow, every winter since 1993. “The worst was (the blizzard) back in ’94,” she says. “Supervisors were coming and picking people up to bring them to work, and once we got there, we were stuck for three days. We were doing 16-hour shifts. They bought us cots.”
When it’s not snowing — and, for the record, Hodges would much rather it not be — she and her crew of about six clear junk from abandoned properties, mostly with skid-steer loaders. They’ll occasionally tackle debris piles by hand, hauling refuse with garbage cans and wheelbarrows. “We’ve seen plenty of rats,” she says. “There’s raw food. There’s been times where you have to walk away and get yourself together.”
Despite the dirty parts, Hodges enjoys the work. “I like being outside and seeing different parts of town. I like operating the equipment. I’m not cut out for the office,” she says. The 1990 Doss High School graduate has been working for the city for 20 years, pouring asphalt, landscaping parks and driving nearly every type of large vehicle except a semi — which she is licensed to drive, by the way. She laughs when people are surprised to see a woman operating large machinery. “It’s funny to see jaws drop. Just today (while driving a skid-steer), some man asked me, ‘Where’d you learn to drive that thing like that?’ I said, ‘I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s just like second nature to me.’ It’s like driving a bumper car. All you’ve got to do is remember to turn wide sometimes and watch the curbs.”
Photo courtesy: Louisville Magazine