A misunderstood message put Ricky Hinote on the path to a valuable career and a state recognition

Published on August 20, 2013 with No Comments

Ricky Hinote got his job by accident.

A 1971 graduate of Milton High School, he was 19 years old and waiting to hear about his job application with the City of Milton.

His mother gave him a message when he got home one day.

The city wanted him to go to work at the sewer plant.

So Hinote reported to the sewer plant. The boss, Willis Williams, was surprised; he asked the longhaired young man who told him that he had been hired, “City Hall,” Hinote replied.

Williams promptly put Hinote to work, assigning him tough, dirty jobs all that first day, just to see what he was made of.

The next day, an enthusiastic and determined Hinote returned to work at the sewer plant, only to be met by Claude Hobbs, the man who ran the city’s sewer department – a separate department from the sewer plant in those days. Claude said Hinote was supposed to work for him at the sewer department, not the sewer plant.

Williams, however, insisted that Hinote stay at the sewer plant. He was too good of a worker. Williams said to Claude, “you ain’t getting’ him”.

That was 1972. Hinote has been there for the past 41 years, most of that time as supervisor of both the City’s drinking water and wastewater treatment.

Award-winner

 He’s also the winner of major recognition this year. Hinote was chosen the Manager of the year by the Florida Rural Water Association.

He received the award in mid-August at the association’s annual meeting in Daytona Beach. He was selected by a panel of government officials, DEP, DOH and wastewater systems operators. (The association’s name is a bit of a misnomer; it includes many large water carriers as well as rural utilities, a total of 1800 utilities)

Hinote quickly shares the recognition with his co-workers.

“I’m blessed to have a great staff,” he says. “Every day we strive to put into the Blackwater River the cleanest water we can.”

Family pride

 After decades on the job, Hinote still is enthusiastic about his work.

Encouraged by him, several employees have studied wastewater management and become licensed, too. Hinote’s father worked at the wastewater treatment plant at Whiting Field; Hinote’s son also has worked in the field.

It’s a complicated business, overseen by a host of state and federal agencies, and it’s little appreciated by the general public. Most people just want the system to work.

It’s a bit like being the umpire in a baseball game.

“You don’t get noticed until you mess up,” says the good-humored Hinote.

To Hinote, however, it’s more than just a job. He has a personal motive, too. His mother (Alma Pendleton) and her family grew up on a houseboat on the Blackwater River. His family made their living by “pulling dead heads”. Relatives were loggers and fishermen. The Blackwater and his family have a lot of history.

“I love the idea of protecting that river,” he says.

 

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