Highlighting Heroes – Stephen Cline
Kingsport’s Landscaping Division of Public Works is responsible for all ground maintenance within the city with more than 12,000 trees and 200 landscaping beds under its purview. It’s a job with very little down time.
Hanging Christmas decorations, eliminating overgrown vegetation and removing storm damaged trees are just some of the tasks these crews do throughout the year. And each season brings different jobs for these crews, from pushing snow in the winter, to planting trees in the spring, to responding to thunderstorm damage in the summer.
One of the employees who believes he and his crew are making a difference in people’s lives is Foreman Stephen Cline.
“People think we just plant flowers, pull weeds and lay mulch, but there’s a lot more to it than that,” Cline said.
One key task Cline and his nine-member crew is responsible for is the pruning and removal of damaged or fallen trees. These trees range in size from 10 feet to 90 feet and each one presents its own challenges. The crew is on call 24 hours a day and is most active during storm events when limbs and trees have broken and fallen into the roadway, causing a hazard.
During one storm earlier this year, more than 200 trees fell in one weekend. Each one had to be cut up and transported to the landfill.
“There was a big storm that hit during the summer where two oak trees fell and blocked the roadway into and out of the hospital for the ambulances,” Cline said. “At the time it was awful out in the weather, but then you think maybe you made the difference between life and death.”
Cline, 49, hails from Kingsport, graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School and has been employed by the City of Kingsport for 13 years. He started out as a worker, then rose to crew leader and now for the past three years has served as a foreman.
Cline said he has a great group of guys he works with and can depend on all of them during challenging times.
“You can’t put what we do on a set schedule because it’s dictated by Mother Nature,” Cline said. “Once she starts warming up, things start sprouting and growing, and we have to be working. If not, we’ll get behind and never get caught up.”
Another important duty, Cline and his crew are responsible for has to do with the curb appeal of the city. Landscaping performed throughout the city and at the gateway entrances improves the overall look of Kingsport, especially when it comes to first impressions.
“Landscaping can be very gratifying,” Cline said. “When you can take areas in the city that are grown up with brush, clear it and establish grass or a flower bed…it’s very gratifying.”
Grounds/Landscaping Manager Tamra Rossi said Cline takes pride in his work and is always putting others first.
“Stephen gets the calls when there is an after-hours tree emergency. Often if it is a call that he can take care of without calling others on the crew in, he will do so,” Rossi said. “He says he wants the guys on his crew to be able to have their evenings, weekends, and holidays off.”
For more information about Kingsport’s Streets and Landscaping Division, please visit www.kingsporttn.gov.