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Jul 17, 2023

A Public Service Profile on Breaking Through by Fixing Things

Sponsored Content provided by Chris Coudriet - County Manager, New Hanover County Government

Here in New Hanover County, we are fortunate to have amazing team members across more than 30 departments dedicated to working with our customers to administer services and programs that enhance the quality of life in our community. 
And someone has to make sure the buildings and facilities our team members operate from and our customers utilize are taken care of. Any physical structure requires maintenance and repair from time to time to ensure it is meeting the needs of our staff and community. 
That’s where our trades technicians come in.  
This talented crew of hard-working individuals strives to quickly address issues and provide preventative maintenance to avoid problems down the road. Their efforts behind the scenes truly keep New Hanover County in working order. 
In February 2022, we welcomed a new trades technician to our organization in Emilee Johnson. Her addition to our team was a milestone moment, as Emilee became the first female trades technician in the county. 

For this month’s public service profile, I asked Emilee what it has been like to take on this role, what she’s learned since she started and asked for her advice to others who might be considering a move like this themselves. That conversation is below… 
Congratulations on being the first female trades technician in New Hanover County history. I’m very curious to learn a little about your back story and what led you into this line of work. 
Thank you so much. I’m very excited to be a part of the New Hanover County team. I started taking an interest in the trades when I met my now stepdad who is a carpenter. I started riding along with him to jobs he was working because it was a way for he and I to spend some time together and get to know each other. Then, I started paying attention to what he was actually doing, and I loved watching him work. I liked it so much that I continued going to work with my dad every chance I got. Fast-forward a couple years, I had moved out of the house and was trying to figure out what was next for me in terms of a career. My oldest sister called me and told me about the job opportunity with the county. I ended up applying for the role that night and, well, here I am.
Obviously, we have a variety of facilities, both new and old, throughout the county, each of them housing different departments with an array of needs. What’s that been like for you to help manage? Is there an average day on the job?
I really like getting the chance to help people and see how happy they are after we fix a problem they are having or hang something for them. It might seem like the smallest task on your to-do list, but it often seems like we just made their day once it’s done. That said, an “average day” really does not exist as a trades tech. I go in every morning knowing it will be different from the day before and even though you have a list of things to do, it can quickly change. One day I might be putting down carpet tiles, the next day I will be painting and maybe the next I’ll be in offices hanging pictures all day. It truly varies from one day to the next. 
Has there been a favorite project or something you’ve gotten to do since joining the team that you’re particularly proud of?
Last year, my co-worker and I had were tasked with a project to remodel an area in vehicle management. Although it was the summer and it was very hot, it was an amazing experience to learn how to take out a wall, install a door and build a new wall. It was one of those projects where you really got to see something change drastically and it reshaped the whole space. I remember when we finished, I immediately called my dad and couldn’t wait to tell him all about it. He was so proud.
As someone who broke a glass ceiling in becoming the first female trades technician in county history, what would you say to someone who might be thinking about going into this line of work but unsure if it would be a good fit or if they would feel accepted?
My honest opinion is pretty simple – just go for it. To be fair, it was scary at first. Not only was I going through a huge culture shock transitioning from working in retail to coming on with county government, but also being the youngest person in the department and being the only female in my group added even more nerves. I was truly worried I would end up not liking the job. Thankfully, the men I work with took me under their wing immediately and showed me the ropes. We bonded pretty quickly. So quickly that some of them even went to my wedding. I truly could not imagine having better co-workers. Sometimes, I do still feel a little like an outlier when I look at our team, but everyone is different and that’s what we celebrate. We all want to support each other and get the job done. And I hope there are others like me in our community who might join our team one day as well.  
Emilee has certainly been a welcome addition to our team. Her hard work is making sure our facilities function properly and we’re very excited to see the impact she will make in our organization as we move forward. 
We’re always looking for skilled and talented people, like Emilee, to serve as trades technicians, as the upkeep and maintenance never stops. To learn more about these opportunities, visit our current openings by clicking here and searching “Trades Technician.”

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