The restorative power of work fueled by job satisfaction is something that Brownsville Public Utilities Board Auto/Heavy Duty Equipment Technician David Flores hopes that he has imparted to his 20-year-old daughter, Jennifer. His restoration project Mustang coupes have become a testament that. Weekends invested fixing and restoring will pay off when he is able to make his daughter’s childhood request a reality. “When she was little, she would always ask me for a pony,” Flores says with a smile. “She will have a pony as old has her dad, a 1965 Mustang.”
Flores’ passion for mechanics is something that has made him a professional in demand because of his specialty knowledge in everything from passenger cars to heavy machinery like front-end loaders and full-size dredge barges.
The Homer Hanna High School graduate said tinkering with mechanical devices has always interested him. He recalls making improvements and repairs to his childhood bicycle, later his motorcycle and, also, to the cars of his parents. It’s little wonder that Flores earned an associate degree in auto technology in 1988 at the University of Texas Brownsville (now the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley).
At 21, he began his career at the Brownsville Public Utilities Board. Thirty years later, Flores says he has learned some fundamental truths about work which include the pride of hard work, camaraderie in teamwork and the rewards of working for the greater good.
A typical day for Flores includes arriving a half an hour early to check, read and record all fuel, oil and fluids vital for operations. Now, the regular days begins with “touch and go” of numerous work crews heading out to the field to begin their service rounds.
Following the bustle of work crews leaving the yard, Flores and five other fleet mechanics begin their routine maintenance repair work on over 500 fleet units including cars, trucks, van, trailers, heavy equipment and dredgers. The crew focus on more critical work orders with the repair of hydraulic components, hoses, excavators, aerial lifts, digger derricks and other complex machinery to routine oil changes.
“It’s fun,” Flores says. “Being a part of a team that supports so many other departments. We know that urgency is key to supporting these groups to do their work, even in the field. If they need us to troubleshoot their problem, jumpstart a battery or make a repair while afloat, we’ll do whatever possible to get them up and working again.”
He says the crew became nautical mechanics when the BPUB purchased dredgers to work in and maintain city resacas. “We prefer to do any repairs when these dredgers are out of the water. We do as much as we can while they are out of the water.”
Running like a well-oiled machine is how Flores describes working alongside other mechanics who have been on the job for as long as he. “It’s the camaraderie,” Flores said. “You can’t work with someone for 30 years and not know them almost as well as you know yourself. We spend more time here than at home. We become like family. It makes the day go by faster. We are on the same wavelength so communication is smoother while troubleshooting and making repairs so that makes things easier and we can get equipment back on the road faster.”
He says that understanding the importance of individual contributions to organizational and community goals were never more exemplified than by doing his job, especially during times of crisis. “When the Tienda Amigo fell in 1988, we organized a refueling detail to keep the city of Brownsville and PUB machinery and emergency vehicles running. Later, we helped with the recovery efforts of those who needed to be removed,” he recalls. “During hurricanes or storms, we are here to keep our BPUB fleet running and our people responding. We are a 24-hour service provider.”
Understanding how his work is vital to the bigger picture is something that Flores believes was passed down from his father, Francisco Flores, who worked his entire career until retirement for the city of Brownsville. “My dad got up early to go to work. I saw his example every day,” he recalls. From his father, he also learned carpentry. Together, the two Flores’ built several homes, locally.
Another bit of advice Flores imparts on mechanical-minded high school students or “gearheads” during local career day panels is to stay up to date. Flores says he encourages newcomers to the profession to be open to instruction and input from others. He credits his mentor and former college professor, David Cornejo, for instilling confidence in him by listening to his suggestions and proposed solutions to mechanical repair problems.
“Now everything is computerized and there are more electronics,” he says. “For mechanics, most of the time, it’s a simple obvious fix, but remember, we need to keep up with our education and computer knowledge in order to do the best diagnostics.”