The Tennessee Chapter American Public Works Association awarded one of Kingsport’s public works employees the 2018 Murphy Snoderly Award. Kirby Walker, a long-time employee of the Kingsport Water Department, accepted the award in Knoxville.
Walker, a lab technician, was nominated for his dedication to positive public outreach. In the decade that he’s been with public works, Walker has proven not only his desire to learn, but an eagerness to share that knowledge with others through outreach programs.
“Not many people know just how much work goes into maintaining a city,” said Assistant City Manager of Operations Ryan McReynolds. “Kirby’s mission is to teach children about the behind-the-scenes activity in Kingsport—and to get them excited about it, so that they might one day decide to become a public works employee, too.”
After the water department recently eliminated public tours due to safety concerns, Walker stepped in to fill the void. Last November, he visited Kingsport City Schools’ fourth grade career fair to teach the children about the process of how water makes it from the river into people’s homes. He brought photos, displays and gifts so the children would remember what they learned.
Since then, Walker has been visiting schools regularly. While school tours of the water department would annually bring in about 150 children, Walker’s presentations over this school year reached more than 2,000 children.
“Kids need to understand the importance of safe, reliable drinking water. They need to learn at an early age to protect our water environment – creeks, rivers, lakes, ocean – and the importance of putting it back as clean as you found it because someone downstream needs it,” Walker explained.
The award’s namesake, Murphy Snoderly, was an engineering and public works consultant for the University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service. He believed that the “working people,” who perform tasks like garbage pickup or pothole repair and without whom a city could not function properly, should be recognized for all that they do. Only operations level employees—working people—are eligible for the Murphy Snoderly Award.