Faces in the Crowd
Kenny Austin: Landscaping and maintenance supervisor, Downtown Bellingham Partnership
January 20, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.
Landscape and maintenance supervisor, wine enthusiast, sports fan
Lived here for: 25 years
Originally from: Redmond
How did you end up in Bellingham, and what do you like about living here?
My girlfriend at the time brought me here. At the time, I wasn’t happy that [the relationship] didn’t work out, but it was the best thing ever. I feel like I found myself here. My social leanings definitely transformed moving up here, and I feel like I found my people.
How long have you worked for the DBP?
I got hired just before COVID. Since nobody was out around town, the businesses were closed, maybe a couple coffee shops were open. Everyone was shut down probably for about five weeks, so they allowed me to come down and do some map-making, and photograph the condition of downtown. The houseless population was the only one out and about.
These days, what does a typical day at work look like?
It depends on the season. Usually in later spring and summer, we’ve got a lot of watering to do. We’ve got 30-something hanging baskets that need to be watered, depending on the temperature, almost daily. We have also taken on the garbage and litter patrol contract from the city.
The first thing I do is a drive-around of all the streets of downtown. Is there an emergency — like people taking garbage pails and dumping them in the street or maybe a homeless crisis? I also note graffiti. In the core service area, I feel like it’s well under control. If you see graffiti, it’s probably just outside of my service area.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I like that I can visually see what I’ve done for the day. If I have to sit at a computer for too long, I may have gotten a ton of stuff done, but nobody knows. Another thing I like is interacting with all the businesses and organizations. People show their appreciation a lot, especially in the spring after a real crappy winter. They’re like, ‘Thank you so much for what you do,’ and it feels good, for sure. And I work with the best people at the partnership.
What do you do in your off-time?
Mostly, I follow a lot of sports. I’m also big into wine; teaching people about wine, drinking wine, giving wine tours. I’ve also got a partner and three step-kids. I try to do more hiking but, to be honest, I feel like I put so much effort into the work I do that I’m pretty excited to sit down with a glass of wine or beer and watch whatever show we happen to be watching.
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