Above and beyond: Solid Waste operator awarded for service

Solid Waste Operator Bernie Steckler was awarded with a certificate of recognition by City Administrator Brian Winningham during this week’s Dickinson City Commission meeting for removing debris from the roadway during a recent windstorm.

Bernie Steckler, Solid Waste operator for the City of Dickinson, shows off his certificate of recognition at City Hall Tuesday, April 6, 2021. Steckler was awarded for removing bins of debris from the roadway during extremely windy conditions Tuesday, March 30, 2021. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

Solid Waste Operator Bernie Steckler was having a normal day on March 30, making his rounds on Dickinson’s southside to pick up garbage. Then he saw bins of debris blowing out into the traffic as winds reached over 50 miles per hour. Immediately, Steckler hopped out of his truck and recovered the bins.

This simple act of allegiance and extra due diligence to keep Dickinson clean awarded him a certificate of recognition from City Administrator Brian Winningham on Tuesday, April 6, during the employee appreciation portion of the Dickinson City Commission meeting at City Hall.

Winningham began this initiative in January as a way to highlight the city’s employees that continue to make Dickinson a great place to live and recognize their leading efforts.

“This is above and beyond your normal duties and it makes our city great,” Winningham said, before handing over the certificate to Steckler. “This brings great credit upon you, your teammates and the City of Dickinson.”


City Administrator Brian Winningham (left) congratulates Solid Waste Operator Bernie Steckler with a certificate of recognition during the employee appreciation portion of the Dickinson City Commission meeting Tuesday, April 6, 2021, at City Hall. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

On March 30, winds peaked at 62 miles per hour in Dickinson. Yet Steckler wasn’t about to let trash blow out into the open and picked up the bins near Jon’s Home Comfort Inc. and the Upin restaurant.

“I just feel that I’m doing my job. I hate it when I see debris flying, so I get out,” Steckler said. “If you can, it’s like (you got to) catch it before it gets too far. I know once these cans get dumped, they’re so light that the wind will just take them and will blow them out onto the road, especially when you know the road is busy. So it’s like, ‘OK, let’s go out here and catch it.’”

Though litter is an issue in almost every town across the United States, Steckler noted that it’s important people are mindful of how they take care of their trash.

“One of the things that kind of gets me, especially on windy days, is when people don’t use bags for their garbage and just throw it in. Sometimes our hands are tied because we’ll see a garbage can and it’s all loose and (when we) pick it up and dump it, (we) just watch it go,” Steckler said, adding, “There’s been many times where after we’ve gotten done with our routes, we’ve (also) probably gone into areas to pick up garbage because it landed in somebody else’s yard and the last thing somebody else wants to do is have to pick somebody else’s trash.”

Though Steckler said he was just doing his job, he hopes awards like this will bring more advocacy toward proper garbage disposal and motivate people to go above and beyond.

“I’m hoping people realize when it’s windy out, please bag your garbage and tie it. It saves us from getting calls and getting yelled at,” Steckler noted. “I appreciate it when (others are) realizing people are out there and seeing that we are doing good… We are trying to make a difference by getting out and picking up stuff that’s blowing around.”


Solid Waste Operator Bernie Steckler asks Dickinson Police Chief Dustin Dassinger a question on how to report cigarette butt littering during the employee appreciation portion of the Dickinson City Commission meeting Tuesday, April 6, 2021, where Steckler was awarded with a certificate of recognition for his efforts in removing rolling bins from the roadway during a windy day in Dickinson. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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