Hello, my name is Willma Fields. My Dad is Ed Witherspoon. I graduated from Ouray High School. My parents still live in Ouray. When I was a kid my Dad used to work in the mines. When the mining jobs were gone my family bought the gas station from Mike Kern and we got into the “beautification business”.
We pumped gas and planted flowers. We sprayed down the gas islands and cleaned windows. My Mom “beautified” the public restrooms every night, all summer long. My family closed up the gas station the year I left for college. When I came back that summer, Dad had entered a new beautification job, that of Maintenance Worker for the Public Works Department at the City of Ouray.
Over the years he has become more and more versed at what it takes to maintain the systems that allow the city to function. Imagine a city that doesn’t have enough water to flush its toilets: not beautiful. A city whose sewer system doesn’t function properly: not beautiful. A city with snow so deep the roads are impassable: not beautiful. Ed learned the ropes and climbed the ladder and was promoted to foreman. He beautified the city by helping those who needed it, by seeing a problem that needed to be fixed and fixing it, by striking up a conversation and making a friend. I have a shoebox full of newspaper articles that mention my Dad offering “indispensable knowledge” and “essential support”. Several years ago there was a half-page article about him and the contributions he’d made to the city.
That’s not the case anymore.
Ouray is at a crossroads and the direction it will take is based on the answer to the question: what is beautiful? City workers who put their head down, do their job and go home. Is that beautiful? It’s sterile, it’s predictable, it’s clean. But is it beautiful? City workers who go above and beyond, who are allowed to make judgment calls based on what is best for the citizens, who live and breathe the city they serve. Is that beautiful? It can be difficult to manage, it can get messy, it can be beautiful.
– Willma Fields