In the annals of Hope history, many women have made major accomplishments deeming them worthy of recognition. The latest to join this who’s who roster of female trailblazers is none other than Juanita Coleman. Juanita is the first woman ever to work for the Water Distribution Department of Hope Water & Light (HWL). Juanita’s groundbreaking role in the department isn’t her only notable attribute, though; her steadfast commitment to the job and her generous, spirited nature make her an exceptional individual who leaves a lasting impression.
As a Water Distribution Specialist, Juanita spends her days in the field answering service calls regarding a variety of issues. She may be called to check leaks and then determine the next course of action for solving the problem. Sometimes, she is called out to perform a locate: a necessary task for finding and marking the exact place of a water line before construction or work can take place. Juanita is also responsible for the repair and/or replacement of water meters. No matter the task, Juanita strives to perform with diligence and she has proven she is not afraid to get her hands dirty! At times, a call will require the entire water distribution team to attend and Juanita can be seen down in a muddy hole right next to the guys working on a water main. HWL is responsible for the maintenance of around 152 miles of water mains, 1902 valves, 742 fire hydrants, and more than 4460 water meters, so Juanita’s days are never dull.
With each and every call, Juanita really shines with her exemplary customer service. Her kindness and reverence toward customers has brought glowing compliments to her supervisors. “I want to help people in any way I can,” Juanita says. “I try to show our customers the same respect I would want to receive. When you work with the public, you have to treat people the right way.” Water Distribution Supervisor, Daniel Hilton, says Juanita’s charisma is what brings these positive exchanges with customers. “HWL has received a great deal of praise regarding how helpful Juanita is with her customers. She’s very upbeat and very friendly when she interacts with people.”
Some might not be comfortable performing in a role which historically has been held by only men, but not Juanita. “I don’t even think about it most of the time,” she says with a smile. “I just get up every day ready to do my job.” Juanita spent ten years working for Hope’s Wastewater Department so she is no stranger to hard work outside in the elements. “I love being outside,” she says. “I have always preferred work that requires me to be more active. I don’t think I would do well sitting still inside an office all day,” she laughs.
Russell Cornelius, HWL General Manager Operations, says just the fact Juanita applied for this job is indicative of a new, more diverse way of thinking. “It represents a changing of the times, really” he states. “Traditionally, women didn’t apply for these positions. HWL is setting the example that women can be accepted into these roles, and Juanita is doing an excellent job, too. She’s become an asset to the HWL team.”
Charlotte Bradley, HWL General Manager Admin Services, seconded the notion. “HWL has always been proactive in our hiring process and these roles have been open to all individuals regardless of race, gender, or nationality,” she says. “Juanita is one of the first females to apply for a position in the Water Distribution Department; fortunately for us, she was the top candidate in that field. We’re very proud of the job she is doing, and the community has been very receptive to her being in this role, as well as the HWL workforce.”
Juanita’s boisterous drive and independent spirit aren’t limited to those hours between 8am and 5pm each day. Outside of work, her favorite activities are hunting, fishing, spending time with her family, and keeping bees. Yes… bees! Juanita is an avid beekeeper and has several hives she farms for honey. She has spent a great deal of time studying them. “Bees are the most interesting insect you’ll ever deal with.” she says. “There are so many complex parts of the queen’s journey. She is very determined in caring for her colony.” That sentiment sounds a bit familiar when speaking with Juanita’s daughter, Cheyenne. “My mom has always worked hard so she could care for others,” she says. “I’m so glad someone else is recognizing her for what I’ve always known. She is a strong woman with a good heart. She’s my best friend.”
Although Juanita’s role as the first woman in the department is what initially put her on the radar of the public eye, her humility, hospitality, and dedication set her apart from the norm. She carries on each day, as she always has, getting the job done with warmth and vitality while assisting members of the community with their water distribution needs. Juanita modestly tells anyone who asks that she didn’t set out to make a statement when applying for this job, she just wants to work and she enjoys taking care of people. Well, HWL customers and the locals of Hope are reaping the rewards of her new role, and her vital service to the community is why citizen Juanita Coleman is recognized as this week’s SWARK.Today Citizen Spotlight.