Our People, Our Community: Ourcata
City of Arcata employees and our community partners are actively working to make a difference in the lives of Arcata residents and visitors. Read more below to find out who they are and what they do for us every day.
City of Arcata Racial Equity Intern, Malcolm Chanaiwa, and Meridith Oram, Community Development Specialist at Cal Poly Humboldt's Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, are members of a collaborative community network called Equity Arcata. Equity Arcata is a partnership between the City of Arcata, Cal Poly Humboldt and several local businesses working to make Arcata a more welcoming, safe and racially equitable community; and eliminating racial disparities for all people of color in housing, health, education and employment. Malcolm and Meridith are two of the many Equity Arcata members working to support community issues and strategies to include increasing housing equity, fostering communications between law enforcement and students, expanding diversity and inclusion training in the community, businesses and in TK-12 schools, developing equity communication and education outreach, implementing a bias reporting tool and a community response team and creating events to bring our community together. To learn more about Equity Arcata, visit EquityArcata.com.
It’s easy to take for granted that toilets flush and sinks drain, but when they stop working, the City just might be able to help. Arcata’s Collection System Crew—Lead Operator Jose “Pepe” Euan-Estrada and Operator Ted Yarbrough—inspects, cleans and maintains all 64 miles of Arcata’s sewer lines. And if your plumbing problem turns out to be on the City’s side of the line, they could save you money. “If your toilets are backing up, call us first,” says Ted. Adds Pepe, “It doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas or Thanksgiving. It’s what we signed up to do.” The crew loves saving taxpayers money. After all, “Your water and sewer bill pays our wages,” says Pepe. “It’s part of the service.”
Handy Tip: Pepe and Ted remind everyone to pour used cooking grease in a can and let it harden before throwing it in the trash. This prevents problems for everyone down the line. For sewer backups call 822-5957 during business hours or 822-2424 after hours.
For Police Services Assistant Bev Bence, police work is a family affair. Her husband and brother-in-law are retired police sergeants and her brother is a Humboldt County Deputy Coroner. You can see Bev’s kind smile at Arcata Police Department’s front counter where she handles everything from subpoenas to electronic fingerprinting. “I love to see if I can help people who are in a bad situation,” she says. “Whether you’re dealing with a parking ticket or something much more serious, we need to be caring and compassionate and work through things so people know we’re here to help them.” Bev reminds everyone that the APD never closes. “If you need help, you can come to the front door after hours and pick up the phone to report a crime to the dispatcher.”
Fun fact: Bev's a preacher's kid who grew up in Arcata. She rode her bike to the Plaza to get popcorn from Ben Franklin's and got an early introduction to the APD as a teenager while zipping around in her jacked-up '74 Camaro. "Let's just say the police knew me very well," she says slyly.
As a Utilities Supervisor and 26-year City employee, Mike Clinton has up-close-and-personal knowledge of hilly Arcata’s system of 16 water tanks, 11 pump stations, 7,000 water connections, 11 sewage pump stations and miles of underground piping. “Most people have no idea what’s under the asphalt,” he smiles. Arcata’s challenge now is to improve and replace this aging infrastructure to ensure reliable service. “We have very skilled and hardworking crews providing efficient water and wastewater service and I’m grateful to work with these guys,” says Mike. “Someone’s on call 24/7 in case there’s a sewer or water emergency.”
"When people call the police, they're generally not having a good day," says Miranda Baird, Senior Dispatcher at the Arcata Police Department. "Our job is to make things as easy as possible." Miranda fields both emergency and non-emergency calls from the public, keeps tabs of her officers' locations, and communicates with them via radio, sometimes all at once. Dispatchers can track dual conversations-one in each ear-a skill that only 3 percent of us possess. "It's important to stay calm while doing that. People are depending on you." Her reward at the end of the day? "I know I help people when it really counts."
As Arcata’s GIS Coordinator Brian Kang does more than create stunning maps. He links geographic data to specific locations, making it possible to go online and see if your home sits in a flood zone or check out uses for which it is zoned. Brian's map making skills helped the City garner about $16 million in grant funding to more than double its open space acreage in 18 years. True fact: Have you seen this surfer dude during Discovery Channel's Shark Week talking about a too-close encounter with a Great White?
Paul Wilson intended to visit Arcata for just two weeks in 1961. Instead he stayed and has served the community as an Arcata Recreation employee, City Councilman, Firefighter and, for the past eight years, as a Sergeant with the Arcata Police Department’s Citizen Volunteer Patrol Program. Police Department volunteers assist in traffic control duties, handle paperwork and perform house checks. Volunteers help free up time for full time police officers to concentrate on current investigations and emergency response. Going on vacation? Trained APD volunteers like Paul can be an extra set of eyes on your home. Call 822-2428 to register!
Heidi Groszmann has worked for the City of Arcata for nine years and is currently the Arcata Police Department’s Special Services Division Park Ranger. Heidi is in charge of patrolling and preserving the city’s parks, the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, the Aldergrove Marsh, and the Arcata Community Forest. “The forest is a major attraction for the city,” says Heidi. “People come from all over the world to see the redwoods.” What does Ranger Heidi want you to remember? “Tread lightly on the forest and clean up after yourself. It’s important to preserve the forest for future generations.”
Heather Schmidt is a Recreation Supervisor for the City of Arcata Recreation Division. Heather oversees many activities, including diverse city arts programming, a multi-level gymnastics program, the ever popular Redwood Day Camp, and the Leader-In-Training program, which offers teenagers an opportunity to take a lead role in city summer camps. Heather also coordinates the well attended Bowl of Beans community dinner, a fundraiser for the Arts in the Afternoon after school program. “Some people think recreation is a luxury, but it’s a necessity,” says Heather. “It makes a big difference in the lives of the families and children who work with us. It helps them learn and grow.”
Wastewater treatment is an essential aspect of keeping a community safe and healthy. Dave Couch has dedicated over 30 years to the City of Arcata as a Wastewater Operator. During his time in the lab, he administers a series of tests to ensure the plant is meeting city and state regulations. Arcata's treatment plant is the City's primary treatment facility. The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary includes environmentally friendly secondary treatment ponds, while housing over 270 species of birds. “I often refer to myself as a blue collar environmentalist,” he says. “I love water and this position allows me to help people and protect the environment.”