A road map to life: Malcolm Lewis

Editor's Note: This month's Member Profile features Malcolm Lewis, Utility Safety Engineer, City of Winston-Salem, North Carolina; member, APWA Awards Review Committee (2005-06); member, APWA Nominating Committee (2003-04); and former North Carolina Chapter President (2003).

Tell us about your background: I'm a native Tar Heel, born and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. My wife, Sharron, and I have been married for thirty-two years and have three wonderful daughters: Christina Gayle is the oldest, Michelle Diane is the middle daughter, and Elizabeth Anne is the baby girl.

I started my professional career in 1976 as a construction engineer with J&L Steel Corporation in East Chicago, Indiana. In June of 1979 I returned home because my father became seriously ill and I moved back to help my mother. It was at that time that I began my employment with the City of Winston-Salem as a Civil Engineer in the Property Maintenance Division. In 1980 I moved to the Utilities Division as a Senior Civil Engineer. My duties included project management for a fifty-million-dollar wastewater treatment plant, seven-million-dollar pump station, three-million-dollar water and wastewater plant upgrade, and the construction of a two-million-dollar regional land and maintenance facility.

In 1983 I was promoted to Assistant Superintendent of the Property Maintenance Division, and my responsibilities were to oversee the maintenance and the plumbing, HVAC, electrical and structural repairs of over four hundred-plus City facilities. I also supervised the City custodial staff and cemetery staff, as well as three senior engineering technicians who were responsible for small design and construction projects. I stayed there until 1994 when I accepted the responsibility of the City/County Utilities Division's Safety Engineer. My primary focus is to develop a safety program that involves all City Utilities Division employees, which is about three hundred fifty. Added to those responsibilities, I sometimes handle small civil engineering projects that the other engineers in the office may be too busy to get to, so I have other duties as well. That brings me up to where I am now.

Education: I'm a graduate of Atkins High School here in Winston-Salem, and a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University. I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Architectural Engineering in 1975. I also received a Bachelor's degree in Ministry from Winston-Salem Bible College in 2003. I've also taken a number of courses in OSHA Safety Management and am a certified OSHA General Industry Outreach Trainer.

Do you have a favorite book? Well, I do. It's called the Bible. The Bible reads like a road map to life. It has all kinds of directions to get us to where Jesus wanted us to go. It also reads like a solution manual. I like to tell the people when I'm ministering that it has the solutions to all life's problems—anything that we come against, it's in there. We have to read it to get it, but it's a problem-solver and a road map. It's interesting reading.

Hobbies/Interests: I like studying the Bible and seeing how the problems people faced back in Jesus' day are some of the same problems that we're facing today. I also like studying Greek, which I've started just recently. At one point I said I'd never read this stuff, but it's very interesting. The other thing that I really enjoy is spending time with my family.

Role Model: Well, I have several. The first one, and you probably can get a sense of the type of person I am with this answer, is Jesus. He led the perfect life, and He left us all kinds of examples of how to deal with life. And if I can attempt to live as close to the type of life He lived, I think I would help people.

My second role model is my father. He taught me that hard work won't kill you, but it'll make you a better person. He started his own company with only a fourth-grade education. And there is something that stuck with me...he said, "Son, you just put your mind to it, put your faith in God, don't quit, and you can do anything." And I look back at him starting his own construction company with a fourth-grade education, and he's got to be a role model.

My mother was another role model. She has instilled in me that faith in God and prayer change things.

There are so many more people who could be role models, but when I look at who had such a dynamic impact on my life, these three are my role models.

Career Accomplishments: Well, a few. With the changes implemented in the Property Maintenance Division when I was Assistant Superintendent there—a change in staff along with supervision—we were able to save the City more than fifty thousand dollars, in custodial staff alone. And I was proud of the employees because basically they did it.

Then there's the development of the safety manual and safety program here in Utilities. When the safety program started it wasn't much of anything, but with the help of our employees and the support of management the program is really working, and I'm proud of that. We have been the recipients of the George W. Burke Wastewater Plant Safety Award and the Walter Corman Water Plant Safety Award. These awards make me proud that we were able to turn this organization around safety-wise. We had some challenges to overcome, but those are accomplishments that I really treasure.

I'm also proud that we have developed a website for safety training for the Utilities Division. The employees can go online and find what classes they need to take, what's required and recommended, and schedule a class anywhere from January to December. They can go back and see what they have accomplished, what they have left to take, and when they've fulfilled all these classes. They can also request additional classes that may not be listed on the Intranet. The website has gotten the employees interested and has made training so much easier.

Another thing is the development of a Utilities Safety Newsletter comprised of articles from our Central Safety & Health Committee. We have seven task groups, and each task group produces an article every quarter. And it's from the employees—the things they need to know, the things they're interested in, and it includes plenty of tips to help them in their jobs. The newsletter helps to keep them informed, and I'm proud of that.

Tell us more about the Utilities Division of the City of Winston-Salem: The Utilities Division is a part of the City of Winston-Salem with about three hundred fifty employees, and it is controlled by the City/County Utilities Commission. The Commission was formed in April 1976 when a group of leaders from the County and the City got together and decided to combine County water and City water. It entails three water treatment plants, two wastewater treatment plants, three landfills, two cemeteries, and a regional land and maintenance facility. And our construction and maintenance facility is where we install water lines, make water line repairs, repair meters, and put in sewer lines and sewer connections. The Utilities Division is comprised of a Director and Deputy Director, and from there branches out to all the superintendents and administrators. It's a very professional group of individuals that have taken in not only the City water and sewer, but also surrounding areas like Clemmons, Walkertown and King. These are smaller communities that probably would not be able to afford to have their own water and sewer plants, so they are serviced by the City/County Utilities Division.

I understand that you are also a minister. How did you get involved with the ministry and how often do you preach? For forty-eight years I was a member of Shiloh Baptist Church here in Winston-Salem, my home church. But in 1999 the Lord directed me to join The Uncompromising Word Fellowship Church. I was just going to be a member, but I found myself serving on the Board of Deacons and was in charge of the Helps Ministry and the Men of Valor. Then one morning during my prayer time the Lord told me it was time to teach and preach. I struggled with this for awhile, and the revelation came that He wanted me to go into the ministry. When I approached my pastor about it he told me, "I knew it but I could not tell you." This was something that I had to realize myself. I felt that the call was there, and I started in the ministry. I was licensed in 2001 and ordained in 2004.

As far as how often I minister, as head of the ministry staff, I schedule the rotation of the associate ministers. And usually once a month is my scheduled rotation, but it varies because at any time the pastor may call and ask me to minister. It may be two or three times a month. There are other occasions that may come up away from the home church, so it can vary from the formal setting of a pulpit. But as a minister of the gospel I minister to people every day.

You were a member of APWA's Nominating Committee a couple of years ago. What were your responsibilities on the committee? Well, I received the packet of information containing the list of potential candidates for various positions at the national level. My responsibility was to review them and make comparisons between all of the potential candidates. It was extremely hard to do because we have such a wealth of talent in this organization. I prayed about it up until the last minute as to who to recommend. Any one of the recommendations would have been an excellent choice for the organization. After individually reviewing each recommendation, the Nominating Committee members via conference call discussed our thoughts and then agreed upon recommendations as to who we thought would be best to fill those positions.

Why do you like being a member of APWA? Who would not want to be a member of APWA? It is an organization that is...well, let me put it this way. David Caplan [Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal, Ontario] once said, "We are professionals who deal with humanity and provide for their needs." In the Bible, in the Book of John, Jesus asks Peter three times to feed His sheep. And that's what public works does in a way. It takes care of the Lord's creation. When we decided to accept a calling as public works professionals, we in essence accepted a commission issued over 2000 years ago. Because we love our communities, we deal with the public and provide (feed) for their needs. Streets, equipment services, facilities, water, anything that's necessary for America to do what it has to do. We hear a lot about the tragedy of [Hurricane] Katrina. We hear a lot about the rescuers and the people who are going down to help out. But public works employees, I guarantee you, are a vital and necessary part of that entire operation.

I enjoy being a part of something that helps people. We have so many talented people in the organization. If there's anything that I need in my daily tasks, or if anybody needs something in Utilities or Public Works here in Winston-Salem, there is somebody in this organization who has the answer. It's like a support group, it's like a family, and I like that family feeling that if you're a member of APWA and you go to the National Congress, for example, you may not personally know everyone but it's like being among family members and there's always help there. It's just such a great organization to be a part of. I always tell people, if there's ever anything I can do to help anybody, please call. And that's the attitude I've seen from everybody I come in contact with, from San Diego, to Kansas City, to Atlanta, to anywhere. APWA is a great organization, a great organization!

We managed to get some of our past "Member Profile" subjects together at the Get Acquainted Party during Congress for a nice group shot. From left are Tim Haynes (whose profile appeared in the March '05 issue), Keith Hunke (July '03), Sue Hann (October '04), Sharon Subadan (May '03), John Griffin (July '04), Les Henley (November '04), Brenda Herrman (February '05), Helena Allison (December '02/January '03) and John Nowak (December '04).