Meet The Town Of Normal's First Female Waste Carrier
Paul has worked for Normal’s Public Works department since 2017. Her voice is familiar to residents as the one who answers the phone when they call Public Works.
“When I came to (Normal) Public Works, I was incredibly impressed by the skill level that my co-workers have in navigating and utilizing these pieces of equipment. They are so big and require so much finesse to keep everyone safe around them. So I was really interested in getting a bigger piece of that, ” said Paul.
Her boss and director of Public Works, Wayne Aldrich, said she is known and liked by the community. He said that makes her an obvious choice.
“Lisa is very aware of all our operations, but in particular waste operations, because she’s the direct contact with our residents on these issues. So that's certainly one way that qualifies her ... her knowledge of our waste operations in town here,” said Aldrich. “The other thing Lisa did was on her own initiative, she pursued a commercial driver's license.”
In 2020, she received her CDL permit and learned how to operate the garbage trucks.
"Moving into Public Works and being in a male-dominated field here didn't seem any more strange than everything else I've done in my life."Lisa Paul
She wasn’t starting from scratch. Paul, originally from Great Britain, received her associate’s degree in the United Kingdom in mechanical and electrical engineering before coming to the U.S.
She never thought she’d be Normal’s female waste carrier. Most waste carriers in the U.S. are men. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show women comprise only 1% of that work force.
“The thing is, I grew up as the only female of my generation. So I had a brother and all of my cousins were male. My dad was an engineer, so it was pretty straightforward. I have a strength for math and I ended up going into engineering myself. I was the only female in my class. Moving into Public Works and being in a male-dominated field here didn't seem any more strange than everything else I've done in my life,” said Paul, who hopes her new position will empower young girls.
“You can do anything you set your mind to. Work hard to take the training seriously. I would never have dreamed about getting my CDL 5-10 years ago. And then I landed in this Public Works position. And I'm seeing this. And I was like, ‘I could do this. If I train hard. I work hard for it, I could totally do this.’ And I did,” said Paul.
Paul said she spent a lot of time working her way up to navigating her A-11 truck around the cul de sacs of Normal, including a plow hook that extends four feet out from the front end.
“I took my time, and I made sure that I was fluent on the equipment, and I was ready. I was very fortunate to work with a terrific team, very supportive individuals. My co-workers are marvelous. They took time on a daily basis to answer all my questions and to help me become more comfortable with the equipment. But you can do it if you set your mind to it,” she said.
Paul will be one of three Normal garbage truck drivers, alongside two recycling contract-drivers, two brush and bulky truck drivers and a seasonal landscape driver.
Aldrich said he has seen no women take on an operations role like Paul.
“It's certainly a good thing for us ... that we can diversify and employ females in the operations department. I think it's good for everyone,” said Aldrich.
Paul has been studying maps and planning routes to get ready to start. She said she wants to be efficient, avoid doubling back and not miss any areas.
Paul has found residents don’t realize many of the challenges of trash management, like the ideal space between the recycle bin and garbage bin on the curb.
“Residents will place their garbage cans and recycle cans right next door to each other and they're 6 inches from each other. That's quite a challenge for the garbage drivers. It makes it a lot more difficult to pick things up. It's like threading a needle, but if you miss, you're going to send garbage flying,” said Paul.
Before Paul starts her route picking up waste, she has one more thing to dispose of in the office: She will train her replacement.
Paul also doubles as a dog trainer. She is currently raising an 11-week-old puppy named Scramble. Paul wants to show Scramble in dog shows in the future.