Dennis Saharchuk has quite a history with Public Works, he started with the department back in 1999 and has filled many roles over that time with only one small six-month break in those years. Currently he is the acting Superintendent and Project Manager with Public Works.
Saharchuk said he normally sits in an equipment operator role, but the department needed an experienced manager to help out in covering the position.
“I’m just filling in for now, because I’ve done it before,” he said.
As project manager Saharchuk said he manages the overall budget and oversees all projects and contracts. He said the Superintendent duties are split between himself and Foreman, Rick Claughton.
Being local is a big motivating reason for working in Public Works said Saharchuk.
“I live here … (my family) have been here a long time,” he said. “I want to see projects move forward and that we’re progressive as a town.”
There’s a lot of pride when Saharchuk talks about upcoming projects for Public Works. He said the department has a large water main upgrade in the Connelly area coming up that Saharchuk says is going to be a benefit for residents of one of the older sections of town.
“That (upgrade) will be a nice thing for residents in the area,” he said.
There is also a project for the downtown Spirit Square that the department is set to get started on; he said the project will improve on work already done and get the square to a point where it can be maintained.
“(Public Works) is going to get it to a top level and maintain it at that level.”
Having grown up in Fort St. James creates a real and personal investment in the work Saharchuk oversees for the district. That investment is a big part of the reason he is now employed with Public Works. After he returned to the Fort from playing junior hockey, Saharchuk said he already knew where he wanted to work.
“I left town at a young age to play junior hockey,” he said “Then when that was over I took a year at college and worked my way up with the District.”
He said as his hockey career started slowing down his thoughts turned to what he could do and Public Works was on his list by way of working as an arena attendant as a possibility. Everyone wants to get out on the ice resurfacer at some point, unfortunately, he said that position wasn’t available at the time he applied to the department.
“I thought it would be neat to be an arena attendant, and that was part of Public Works” he said. “I didn’t end up starting in the arena though.”
Mentors in Public Works had a big influence on Saharchuk as well, he said. “Two guys not only for myself, but for other people, that were mentors were Lars Sabbe and Dwayne Daley.”
Saharchuk said their knowledge, easy personalities and ability to share their knowledge with their coworkers were a big part of what made them great mentors in the department.
“You can’t just open a book and be able to solve a problem in Public Works,” he said. “Being able to listen to them and watch them do what they do, you pick up a lot.”
“To be on the ground with the guys that have been doing it for a while, really helps.”
Sahachuk said if he were to mentor someone he would focus on teaching good listening skill and says being eager is helpful.
“In Public Works we do a lot of different jobs every day,” he said. “We’re not stationed to one job, so there’s always avenues that will help you along the way.” “You pick them up by watching or listening to guys’ who have done it before.”
Saharchuk’s job has had its challenges too he says. One project he recalls as challenging was the upgrade to the arena dressing rooms.
“It worked out in the end,” he said. “It was a bit of a challenge, because the (contractors) were from Vancouver, there were a lot of unknowns things that are different here from Vancouver … we freeze in the winter.”
“That was a bit challenging, but today we have five new dressing rooms out of it.”
Geothermal projects pose an interesting challenge for the department too he said. The office, library and arena run on the heating source. “It’s not something we deal with on a day-to-day basis,” Sahachuk said. ”It’s kind of new to (Public Works) and the arena attendants.”
Of all the things Sahachuk has picked up through his years with Public Works, is the department is teamwork driven.
Being around teams most of his life and said learning to deal with different personalities, working together and mutual respect are a big part of having a successful department.
“Our goal is to keep the town desirable,” he said. “Just, have that passion to care about your town.”
He wanted to encourage students who are interested in getting into the civil side of Public Works to consider the Water and Sewer Technician program run through colleges such as BCIT and TRU in Kamloops.
“I never even knew until I started doing this, you can get as many tickets as you like,” he said. “It’s a good lifestyle and a great employer with lots of benefits.”