Keeping Farmville clean and pristine
The first thing you notice about Damon Streat is his speed.
The man whose job it is to keep the Town of Farmville litter-free moves swiftly from his pick-up truck to check a trash can, back in the truck, then out of the truck to grab a soda bottle he sees on the curb, back in the truck and off to the next location.
He does this for eight hours a day, four days a week beginning at 6 a.m. and six hours on Saturday. In and out of the truck, hundreds of times, putting all types of litter, road debris and other items in the back of the truck to be disposed.
The second thing you notice about Streat is his smile. For a man who fights a never-ending battle against litter, he is as affable as anyone you will ever meet. The 52-year-old former prison guard is propelled by a strong sense of duty and pride in his community.
“I’ve been blessed, blessed, more than blessed,” he said. “Believe me, when I get up in the morning, I have some aches and pains, but as soon as I get to work, I have no pains. I can walk from Valero, all the way to the library.”
Streat began this job of picking up litter around town the first week of October. He took over for Willy Jackson, the man who held the position for 13 years, retired. Streat said Jackson taught him to use his eyes and look at the whole road to spot any litter or items that need to be attended to as he put his blinkers on and hopped out of the truck to pick up a piece of trash on the opposite side of the road.
While Streat moves quickly outside the truck, his driving is much more deliberate. He doesn’t turn right on red lights, waiting for the traffic lights to turn green. He cruises around slowly in no hurry giving him an opportunity to scan for litter.
“They didn’t give me this truck for nothing. I’ve got to be careful,” Streat said after making sure his safety light on the top of the truck was flashing. I’m not in a hurry.”
Farmville Public Works Director Robin Atkins said he chose Streat for the job because of his ability to work by himself.
“He’s got plenty of energy,” Atkins said. “I knew he would go out there and get it done.”
Atkins said sometimes the jobs Streat does are things like cleaning Portajohns or other things that are not so pleasant.
“He takes on a lot of the jobs, even though they are not the nicest,” Atkins said. “He’s a go-getter.”
Before he had the litter cleanup job duties, Streat was on the town mowing crew for a year and a half. He joined the town staff in March of 2019 after he retired from the Department of Corrections at the Buckingham Correctional Center where he worked for 29 years.
“I still have that prison type of security mentality,” Streat said. “I write down everything I do. That’s how I was taught at the prison.”
He was happy when Atkins asked him if he wanted to make the change from the mowing crew to his current position.
“I could have hugged him,” Streat said before hopping out of the truck to check another trash can near a Green Front Furniture Building. He said after the weekend the cans around Green Front and High Bridge Trail would likely be full. “A lot of guys said, ‘Damon, that be a good job for you because you like to get about fast and up and down and up and down.’ I’ve been cleaning my road, I live out in the county, all my life.
“I like doing this job. I really enjoy it.”
In addition to picking up litter and emptying the trash cans around town, Streat also has the unenviable task of keeping the streets clear of roadkill. It’s one of the first things he does when he gets in the town’s pickup truck to begin his shift each morning.
“When I leave the shop in the morning, I get my radio and I call the Town of Farmville (dispatcher) to see if they’ve got any reported dead animals out there,” he said as he pulled out from the Town Shop onto Longwood Avenue. “I pick up dead squirrels, raccoons, deer. No skunks yet.”
Streat seems to have a certain trepidation for skunks as he mentions his thankfulness he hasn’t ran into one yet throughout the morning. He keeps plastics gloves in his trucks specifically for the occasional road kill pickup. On this Friday morning in May, Streat had already picked up a possum and a squirrel before we met. He said the oddest animal he has picked up so far has been a beaver.
“I picked up a beaver on Milnwood Road,” he said. “It was so crazy.”
Streat also stocks the toilet paper at the public restroom near High Bridge State Park. He is on his feet walking much of the eight hours a day he is working. He doesn’t have a device that tells him how many steps he walks, but he knows it’s a lot.
“On this job, you’ve got to walk,” Streat said as he quickly checked the trash cans at the Lion’s Club playground at Wilck’s Lake. “I don’t mind walking.”
Streat picks up lots of lottery tickets around town, presumably those that did not win. He had picked up some earlier that day under the troll bridge.
“It’s no need to fuss about it,” he said. “I go on and get them up. They threw about 20 or so tickets out there.”
The most valuable thing Streat has found during his time in the job has been a watch.
He makes it clear that keeping Farmville clean is not just a job he takes on, but the responsibility of the entire town crew as we passed another group of town workers loading brush into a truck.
“This is not a one-person job. You’ve got the brush crew, the paint crew, the sewage crew. These guys, they’ll help you if you need them,” Streat said. “If a deer is too big for me to pick up, they will stop what they are doing and come help me with the deer. If there is brush or something that has fallen off in the road. I am going to pick it up cause they would do the same thing for me.”
Cumberland County recently found itself ranked as the worst county in Virginia for commuting, with Buckingham County not far behind.... read more