Public Service Recognition Week: Jay McWaters, Dept. of Transportation
When the world went into lock-down during a global pandemic, Jay McWaters’ schedule and essential nature of his job didn’t change. That means nothing changed for the thousands of other essential workers who use our state roads to get goods and services to the people of Colorado.
“In my job, we support the highway maintenance workers who fix our state roads,” Jay said. “If we’re not out there, those workers wouldn’t be able to keep the roadways safe and operational for everyone else. That means trucks, doctors, grocery workers would not be going anywhere.”
Jay’s stretch of road is the 50 miles between Golden and the Eisenhower Tunnel. He takes care of the CDOT properties along that route, which includes four different patrol locations.
“I make sure other CDOT workers have facilities where they can repair their vehicles, stock up on what they need, or use the bathroom,” Jay said. “If they don’t have those facilities available, they would be sitting on the road, blocking traffic for everyone else. We all work together to maintain our state’s highways so people can get around; so doctors can get to hospitals, so trucks can transport goods between cities, so other essential employees can get to work. Transportation is essential any time, but in times of a pandemic it becomes crucial.”
Highway maintenance is just one part of what CDOT workers do for Colorado. The money to fund the department comes partially from the state’s budget and partially from the gas tax.
“In my 18 years at the department, the gas tax has never gone up. Every year we need more but we get less. And now with people staying home and not buying gas, I don’t know what’s going to happen to the CDOT budget. This means public services are going to get cut,” Jay said. “That’s why we are asking our leaders, including our Senators in Washington, to include state governments in the next relief package. We need the federal government to step in and support states and cities facing declining revenue and increased demand for vital services.”
One way state employees can ensure they have a voice in how state services are provided to Coloradans is by being part of the union.
“Being part of the union has been such an important experience. For years after the last recession we didn’t see any raises,” Jay said. “But I’ve seen union members go to battle over cost of living wage increases the last couple of years and it’s really made a difference. Last time I was at the Capitol, I saw Correctional Officers push for and get a raise, so I know we can make a difference with our voices.”