Some people may have more job security than others — because their work seems so difficult, hectic or downright unpleasant. The folks on the following pages: A) notify 18-year-olds they aren't getting into their college of choice; B) fix power lines in inclement weather; C) walk past protesters to get to work; and D) remove dead animals from the side of the road. Now find out why they find these really hard jobs so rewarding.
When you see a dead deer on the side of the highway, Derrick Cline's on his way. "I'm more or less the man who picks up dead animals," says the 11-year VDOT employee. In mating season, he might remove 12 to 17 deer a day, pulling them onto the back of his truck while his co-worker watches for oncoming traffic. Cline then heads to a disposal site in Amelia County. The worst, he says, are the dogs. If he finds a tag with a phone number, Cline calls the owner. "I've heard many people crying."
Alfonzo Joyner Jr.
Master police officer
Serving with the Richmond City Police, Alfonzo Joyner Jr. often sees humanity at its worst, particularly the day he witnessed the shooting of a fellow officer. Still, he strives to see the best in people. "A challenge is to be proactive and walk around high-crime areas to get to know people," he says. "If I can stop someone from doing something bad, that's the best." And for those Joyner does arrest? "I respect them, talk to them, pray for them and try to help them turn their lives around."
Military hospital chaplain
As the widow, mother and daughter of veterans, Alice Tamrie is in a special position to minister to wounded warriors. Chief chaplain at McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center, she works with soldiers who have severe spinal-cord injuries, missing limbs or terminal diagnoses, as well as their families. "Our hearts have to be open," she says. "The younger individuals may be angry with God," while others seek comfort through prayer. Of her many soldiers, she says, "My heart salutes them."
University of Richmond associate director of admission
Rejection's hard to take, a point driven home every April in Sabena Moretz's office. That's when the parents call, asking why their babies didn't get into the University of Richmond. "You wish you could take them all by the hand and tell them, ‘This is what I liked about you,' " says Moretz, who's worked in the admission office for 19 years. She and her colleagues sifted through 7,970 applications in 2008, accepting just 2,522. Her weakness: "people who are underdogs who haven't had every advantage."
General Assembly bill drafter
When a prospective bill drafter comes for an interview at the Division of Legislative Services, "we paint as grim a picture as we possibly can," says Bill Crammé, the office's deputy director. "Death is about the only reason you can't come to work." When a Virginia legislator (or any other state official) needs a bill written, a room of 25 lawyers goes to work. They draft between 3,200 and 3,300 pieces of legislation each General Assembly session. Crammé calls it a "very intense" but rewarding job.
Richmond Medical Center for Women director
After 17 years, Jill Abbey has gotten used to the protesters outside her Richmond clinic, which offers first-trimester abortions. She was unnerved when some of those same people showed up at her house, but what truly scares Abbey is the possibility that Roe v. Wade could be overturned. She believes that women of means would still find ways to terminate pregnancies, as they did before legalization in 1973, but she says that her patients — many of whom lack health insurance — likely would have nowhere to turn.
Fan Free Clinic development director
As you might have noticed, times are hard — especially if your job requires you to ask people for money. Patricia Germelman's task is perhaps a bit easier than it might be at other nonprofits, because the need for health care is so great. "People tend to be very sympathetic," she says, "because we serve the least-served." Still, corporate donations toward the clinic's $1.9 million budget are down, so the focus is on individual donors. And the patient population — currently 12,000 a year — is expanding.
Henrico Board of Supervisors
If there's something irritating in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call? David Kaechele. This 29-year veteran of the Henrico Board of Supervisors knows that the role of public servant requires listening to constituents, occasionally of the cantankerous sort (particularly when discussing Short Pump traffic), all the while juggling meetings and regional projects and keeping abreast of county correspondence, zoning materials and staff reports. "I'm a retired engineer," Kaechele says, "and engineers are supposed to be involved in solving problems."
Dominion Virginia Power supervisor
It was bad enough this past Thanksgiving, when Michael Bareford had to leave his family to fix a power outage in New Kent County. It got worse when he spotted a downed power line in the street, which meant shutting down the power of a nearby neighborhood to safely fix the problem. "I went door to door to explain what was happening. Not exactly the news people want to hear when they're cooking turkeys and hams." Fortunately, his backup team arrived swiftly, and power came back sooner than anticipated. Camaraderie with colleagues adds to the fulfillment of a physically demanding job in which you're on call 24/7 in often inclement weather, says this 22-year veteran.
Dr. Leah Bush
Chief medical examiner
It's not the dead bodies that get to Dr. Leah Bush — it's the live ones who work for her. "The hiring is fun, to energize the agency with new blood," says the state's top pathologist, but firings and reprimands, "those types of things are tough." Although she doesn't perform as many autopsies as she did as assistant chief medical examiner in the Tidewater District, Bush still talks to bereaved relatives, testifies at murder trials and is the public face of the medical examiner's office. "I'm more of a politician now, " she notes.
Guest-services manager/head concierge at The Jefferson Hotel
"A concierge wears many hats," says Jeanita Harris (center), who serves in that capacity for The Jefferson Hotel. "Any day, I could be a doctor, lawyer, babysitter, administrative assistant, driver, consultant, seamstress, hairdresser or florist." Like a surgeon on call, she responds to after-hours emergencies, including a 4 a.m. run to Krispy Kreme so a guest could have breakfast before boarding a 6 a.m. plane flight. Another time, she acquired and altered a tuxedo in less than an hour for a man who realized he had forgotten his formalwear the evening of a black-tie event. (His wife later wrote Harris, thanking her for transforming her "pumpkin into a prince.") "You have to be able to multitask and think on your feet, because ‘no' is not part of our vocabulary," Harris says. Handling the hectic and high maintenance reaps invaluable rewards, she says. "I've worked with brides and a family celebrating a woman's 90th birthday," she says. "When you get to witness memories like that, your job is just priceless."
"The stress is not knowing," says veterinarian Paul Howard, who deals not just with unforeseen cases and unpredictable hours at the Veterinary Emergency Center in Carytown, but also with patients unable to tell him where it hurts. He thrives on the uncertainty, however, as it elicits his inquisitive side. "It's not so much the adrenaline, but rather the satisfaction that you've worked through a case and reached a culmination," he says. He also enjoys the more nuanced parts of his job — interpreting pets' body language and fostering the human-animal relationship.