Kelvin Jackson’s 3H Legacy

Kelvin Jackson - Troubleshooter @ MWU

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employees tend to stay with a company 4.1 years on average. I guess you could say that makes Kelvin Jackson an exceptionally above average employee. 

Kelvin joined the Madison Water Utility in July of 1993, retiring in January of 2024. For over 30 years he proudly wore the Madison Water Utility logo day in and out and still does today. When I met up with him for lunch on a cloudy February afternoon, he was easy to spot wearing a black baseball cap with the water utility logo. 

Arriving to Madison from Chicago to live closer to family, Kelvin began his career at the utility as a seasonal worker. It wasn’t long before he worked his way into the maintenance end of operations, ending his career as a Maintenance 3 Troubleshooter. 

Troubleshooters are the doctors of the water world. They learn how to listen carefully to the maze of pipes running deep underground, to diagnose breaks, and pinpoint where to drill. They understand symptoms and patterns and know how to quickly triage situations with level-headed clarity. 

Back in Kelvin’s early working years, before the modern equipment options of today, the jackhammer played a prominent role in helping locate main breaks and conduct pipe replacements. His body won’t let him forget it either! Hours of jackhammering trenches up and down streets like West Washington are permanently imprinted into his shoulders, back, and wrists. 

But a job like Kelvin’s takes so much more than physical endurance, it also requires that essential team support to motivate each other through what can be long days. Kelvin remembers, “Our team would be in our trucks together driving around the city from one call to another. With long shifts and on-call emergencies, we ended up being with each other more than we were with our own families. We became close. Many times, we’d even get together at each other’s houses on Friday nights. That’s how much we enjoyed each other’s company.”

Friendly banter is a big part of water utility life. Kelvin added, “Every morning before we get our shift orders, everyone gets together and has a good laugh with one another. We do it again at the end of the day when we’re all coming back in from our rounds. We know we’re here to do the work and laughter helps get it done.”

Kelvin could go on for hours about the customers he met over the years, the homes he visited, and the appreciation he was shown, “We’d go out to a call and the customers would be so grateful for the work we did they’d try and give us things like cookies and soda. We were just doing our jobs and happy to help.”

Today, Kelvin’s only job is to enjoy retirement one day at a time. When he isn’t out having lunch with former coworkers, he and his wife keep busy visiting their seven daughters across the country, and he plays drums in a reggae band.  

As we were wrapping up, Kelvin shared the most important lesson he learned with the water utility, “There were days I was assigned to be a laborer and days I was the boss. I never knew coming in which one I was going to be. Be kind to the laborers because you never know when they’ll be your boss.”

After thirty plus years of troubleshooting, Kelvin Jackson continues to inspire us to keep ourselves and our systems in working order with his 3H Legacy: Hard work, Humor, and Humility

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison Water Utility.

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