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Celebrating Public Works Week - Rick Yelland–Kewin

posted on May 23 2019

Rick Yelland–Kewin started working with the Town of Blackfalds 19 years ago.

He explains that municipality work was never a career that he saw himself in. He started out with an education in Forestry from Ontario, as he enjoyed the outdoors. However, after graduating and after many years in that field – he grew restless.

“I worked several years in my field of study, in Alberta, but grew tired of contract work and the uncertainty of my next meal. I like to eat and pride myself on being well versed in it,” he laughed. “I needed to find a job that brought me stability and home each night.”

In 1997, Rick followed his then-girlfriend to Blackfalds along with their 2 horses, 2 dogs, 2 cats and 2 ferrets. While trying to maintain a stable lifestyle, he was hired on in Lacombe at a plastics plant but had to ride his bike to and from work.

“It was during one of these trips home from work I met a guy that worked for the Town out walking his dogs. We chatted a bit and from there, we would go on lengthy excursions with our dogs in tow. It was during one of our outings he told me about a job vacancy at the Town,” Rick explained. “I was mildly interested in the prospects of working in town and decided to give it a try. My interview was the following Monday and as I was the only applicant, I started 2 days later in Public Works Maintenance - starting at $8/hour.  How would I survive?”

Rick began telling the story of his first day on the job, back in May of 2000 – almost 19 years to the day.

“My first day on the job was nice, sunny and everything was going well, until we got a call about a sewer back-up. Me, being new with the Town and young, was eager and ready to learn what clearing a sewer blockage involved. This wasn’t any ordinary sewer line or blockage either, as I was about to find out,” Rick explained. “This line was special, and I was told that we would have to dig it up to clear the blockage. The hole was dug, and someone needed to enter the hole and cut the pipe so we could clear the line.

“Like I said before, I was eager. I jumped in the hole before anyone else had a chance. Trust me, no one else was as brave or inexperienced as I. [Everyone else] knew what to expect and were only there to cheer me on and, of course, laugh when the inevitable happened. Yes, it happened and yes, they laughed - some may say to tears.

“They said the look on my face was priceless. If only cell phones were common then, I’m sure you’d see the aftermath somewhere on the internet. Me, not wanting to be shown up, finished the job, exited the hole and threw my clothes away, acting like this was nothing out of the ordinary. That was my first day, what would tomorrow bring?”

Rick is now married, the “product of an office romance”, and has two girls ages 9 and 15. His family has an acreage outside Lacombe that is now home to 7 dogs, 3 and a half horses (one is a pony), 3 cats, 2 guinea pigs, one bird and one fish.  His family enjoys camping, hiking, arguing, and spending time on their funny farm.

Rick went from a maintenance worker to the Public Works Foreman and oversees a crew of 9 employees. Throughout his years with the Town, he has learned many new skills and the cautions that need to be taken when cutting into a blocked sewer line.

Thank you, Rick, for being a wonderful leader and co-worker; never failing to make someone smile.