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Amid 'chaos' of fleet headquarters, Sarah Mark finds workplace happiness
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More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti/pcolletti@qconline.com
Sarah Mark is the fleet administrative assistant for the city of Moline. Ms. Mark had to earn her commercial driver's license in order to take the job.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti/pcolletti@qconline.com
Sarah Mark is the fleet administrative assistant for the city of Moline. Ms. Mark had to earn her commercial driver's license in order to take the job.
MOLINE -- Helping people always has been a goal for Sarah Mark, but as a child, she pictured herself working with infants and toddlers, perhaps at a preschool.

"I didn't end up doing that, but I am so happy here. Sometimes, things work out the way they are supposed to, not the way you think they are going to," Ms. Mark said.

"This is a much better fit," she added.

Ms. Mark, 28, is the administrative assistant for Moline's fleet department, which maintains, replaces and procures all city vehicles and ground maintenance equipment -- a fleet of 380 motorized vehicles including everything from garbage trucks to ambulances, boats and Gators.

Ms. Mark serves as the fuel island administrator and bills outside fuel customers, handles payroll and accounts payable, processes vouchers, arranges repairs, drafts city council bills and picks up parts.

She also handles in-house warranty claims, invoice reconciliation, online auctions of surplus items and vehicles and answers calls from the public concerning garbage pickup.

During her breaks, Ms. Mark will help any new hire prepare for the test to get a commercial driver's license, something all fleet employees, including Ms. Mark, must have,

There are three doors leading into her office -- from the garage, the fleet break room and from a hallway -- and her office rarely is empty or silent.

"I like that I work in an area that is so high traffic. It gives me an opportunity to interact with people from all city departments, not just public works, as they all need the oil changed and tires rotated. When they come through, they pop their head in and say hello," Ms. Mark said.

"I always pictured myself working in a quiet office, somewhere not in a place like this where you always hear power tools going off outside the door, but this is great. It is a controlled chaos," she said.

Ms. Mark grew up in suburb of Los Angeles and, after attending college, worked in a family plumbing business, at a tire company, then in the Ontario, Calif., city clerk's office, handling antique documents and public record requests.

"I really liked working for a municipality because I got to meet citizens and help people. You learn so much people don't learn about on a daily basis," she said.

She moved to the Quad-Cities on Jan. 12, 2011, to live with her boyfriend, John Mcclure, in Bettendorf. Ms. Mark visited the area before moving and fell in love with the Midwest.

"Everyone thought I was crazy, but I just knew this is where I would be happy. While I miss my family, I believe I made the right decision for myself," she said.

Ms. Mark got a job right away, working in the finance office at VonMaur's corporate headquarters, but knew she wanted to work for a municipality. She was interviewed for a job in Moline's Fire Department. When the city called and told her the position had been filled, they also asked her to consider applying for an upcoming position in the fleet department.

Her interview with Moline's fleet manager, J.D. Schulte, didn't feel like an interview, Ms. Mark said. "It felt like a conversation."

She started work March 14, showing up at Moline Public Works in business attire. Ms. Mark didn't know steel-toe boots were required or that more casual dress would be more appropriate. "I was filthy by the time I left," she said, laughing about her first day.

Ms. Mark said every day is different.

"You never know what you will come in and find sitting outside. You never know what kind of phone calls you will field," she said.

She is the point of contact when a resident calls. "I try to leave a good impression on them, so when they think about the fleet division, they remember they had a good experience and know we are friendly," Ms. Mark said.

The fleet department has 11 employees, which include Mr. Schulte, parts and service specialist Tom Hepner and eight mechanics. She said her co-workers always are looking out for her. "They don't treat me like I am made of porcelain. It is nice. It is like having a group of older brothers who pick on you. They are a lot of fun and a great group of guys," she said.

Ms. Mark believes it is unfortunate the public has such little interaction with the fleet department and its employees. "It is such a great department and so integral to our operations in public works. I wish people could walk down our hallways and see all we are doing and how we are so progressive. We are trying be a green fleet and do things that are environmentally conscious," she said.

"J.D. (Schulte) and I argue about who has the best job in the city. He thinks he does, but I am pretty sure I do. I don't think I have woken up one day and thought I didn't want to go to work," Ms. Mark said.

Mr. Schulte said Ms. Mark is able to juggle 40 things at once. He described the fleet department as the "nerve center. You are stepping and fetching here all day long. When the phone rings, you never know what the request will be," he said.

"I think she likes that. In general, people like to be in a position where they can take ownership," he said. "I couldn't be happier for our good fortune."

Ms. Mark doesn't know what the future holds. "I am so happy. I can't imagine moving to another department or going somewhere else, not because I don't think it wouldn't be wonderful," she said.

"I think I fit in so well here. It would be hard to go from fast-paced, constant interruption, loud jackhammer sounds coming from outside to working in a quiet office. I don't know what I would do with myself," she said.

Local events heading

  Today is Tuesday, Sept 2, the 245th day of 2014. There are 120 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: It is estimated that 300,000 people attended the recent Democratic convention in Chicago when Gen. George B. McClellan of New Jersey was nominated as a candidate for president of the United States.
1889 — 125 years ago: Alderman Frank Ill, Winslow Howard and Captain J.M. Montgomery returned from Milwaukee, where they attended the national Grand Army of the Republic encampment.
1914 — 100 years ago: Three members of the Rock Island YMCA accepted positions as physical directors of other associations. Albert Cook went to Kewanee, C.D. Curtis to Canton and Willis Woods to Leavenworth, Kan.
1939 — 75 years ago: Former President Herbert Hoover appealed for national support of President F.D. Roosevelt and Congress in every effort to keep the United States out of war.
1964 — 50 years ago: The Rock Island Junior chamber pf Commerce has received answers to about 65 % of the 600 questionnaires mailed out recently in a "Community Attitude Survey" to analyze sentiments of citizens towards their city's various recreational, educational, and civic service programs.
1989 — 25 years ago: The two thunderstorms passing through the Quad Cities last night and early today left some area residents reaching for their flashlights.

(More History)