Meet Robin Kirby with Public Works
When you think public works, you think Town employees in grey uniforms riding around Town in those trucks adorned with Town decals. They're the people you call when you notice something wrong with the road in front of your driveway, you need a tree cut or trimmed, or they're the folks you see putting up barriers when Town events will be shutting down different parts of the street. But we often don't stop and think about the story behind the men and women who clock in every day to make sure the Town is in tip-top shape.
Robin Kirby has been with Public Works for quite a while; 19 years in October, to be exact. When he first began working with the Town of Pulaski, he was mostly an all-around helper, dragging brush and breaking up gravel and asphalt. Nowadays, Robin spends a lot of his work time cutting trees and making sure the various flowerbeds located around Town are in good shape. Much of his time is taken up with the flowerbeds during the spring and summer months, with over 33 locations throughout the Town. Robin handles just about anything no matter the time, though. "It mostly depends on the time and the season. Right now it's a lot of horticulture, and in the winter months I'll do a lot of snow pushing and tree cutting." He worked for Aspen, a company that provides tree-cutting services, for 20 years before he joined up with the Town and Public Works.
Robin works with around 10 other people in Public Works. While the team size may seem small, the caliber of their work ethic is a testament to their ability to help citizens throughout the Town. Referring to Pulaski's population, Public Works generally doesn't interact with the public too much. Most encounters with citizens are usually referred up the chain of command to Kim Caudill, the Administrative Manager for Public Works. I've spoken with Mrs. Caudill several times, and she's the real deal; she cares about her employees, and resolves any issues or complaints in an extremely timely manner.
Back to the flowerbeds. When asked if he has a green thumb, Robin affirmed that he does. "I started getting really interested when I was round 17. I'd dig up trees (saplings) and flowers and bring them home and put them in pots. I made my own pots out of two liters and put chains in them to make them hang-able." Robin doesn't have a garden at the moment, as his time is mostly spent with his wife, who is recovering from a major illness. In the past, he had a pretty big collection of daylilies. "They come in a bunch of different colors, and you can breed them together to get a totally different color. It's a lot of fun, the process is called hybridizing." Robin considers gardening and horticulture to be very calming. "I've heard other people say it relaxes you, and it gets your mind off of other things. I'm dealing with these [medical issues] with my wife and it helps a lot with that. I can just sit back and relax a bit, and just worry about pulling some weeds or trimming flowers, instead of dealing with the world."
Robin calls Pulaski his home now, but that isn't where he's from. "I'm originally from Newport News in the Hampton area and I lived there most of my early life. I met my wife Sherrie when she was living there working, and she told me about this old homestead her grandparents used to live in in Pulaski. She ended up getting a grant to start getting it fixed up a little bit. She moved here in 1996, and I followed her around 2000." They've lived here ever since, making a life and a home in the Town. Robin and his wife met at Sammie Nick's, a restaurant where Sherrie was working at the time. Aspen, Robin's old employer, had arranged for their workers to grab dinner there one evening, and it just happened to be luck that they met and hit it off. "I started going over to her house to hang out, I remember she used to rent wrestling pay-per-views and we'd invite everyone over to watch with us." His favorite wrestler back in the day was Sting; clearly he had good taste.
Robin loves the Town of Pulaski for the same reason several of my former interviewees do; the charm of living in an easygoing, small-town area. "It's a lot different than where I'm from. The shipbuilding industry in Newport News was made up of around 10,000 people, and that alone was more than the population of the whole Town of Pulaski."
As mentioned, Robin's wife Sherrie is currently going through some complications from having a gall-stone removed. At the moment he spends as much time with her as he can, helping her through the rehabilitation process of regaining motor control and getting back to a good quality of life. But before the illness, they enjoyed checking out yard sales and going to the movies (Robin and Sherrie are superhero and science fiction buffs). His favorite movie is actually Jaws. "It was totally different from anything I'd ever seen at the time." Robin enjoys both cats and dogs, but he may be a bit more partial to man's best friend. "Mostly dogs. We've got three dogs. Two we adopted ourselves, the third we took in from my wife's sister who passed away. I love basset hounds, we have two of them and then the Shih Tzu we took in. In '94 I got my first basset hound while I was out on a job. A lady asked if I wanted him, and I've been in love with them ever since." Robin joins the crowd who have never tried pineapple on pizza. I'm starting to think I should host a Town employee pizza party; all of these people who have never tried it just don't know that they're missing out on the tastiest topping out there!
As our interview concluded, Robin thanked me for taking the time to talk with him, and for considering him in my Serving Pulaski interview series. The Town of Pulaski is so thankful for all that he and his coworkers do in making our community more pleasant and enjoyable, and we look forward to seeing his green thumb on display in the flowers, plants and shrubs around Town. We would also like to wish his wife Sherrie a fast recovery; while speaking with Robin I could feel his love for her emanating through our conversation, and we hope that her recovery continues to speed along at a quick rate.