26, No. 8, Oct. 19, 2006
the job: Jim Donaldson
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
photo to enlarge
by L. Brian Stauffer
| Jim Donaldson
is day subforeman for the garage in the Facilities and Service Division.
Jim Donaldson is prepared for the worst. When he’s not working his day job for the garage in the Facilities and Services Division, he is a part-time firefighter, emergency medical technician and member of the Illinois State Emergency Medical Response team. Donaldson has been working in the university’s garage for 28 1/2 years.
Tell me about your career at the university.
I started out as a garage attendant, then worked my way up through the ranks to mechanic and then became supervisor in 1998.
We take care of all the equipment that’s needed to keep the university running. We deal with all of the units on campus. We service about 2,300 pieces of equipment – anything from weed trimmers, to generators, pickup trucks, semi-trucks, forklifts and tractors. If you can think of it, the university’s got one somewhere.
In the garage, we have 11 mechanics, two auto-body repairmen, four day-garage attendants, and six night-garage attendants.
What’s the oddest thing you’ve worked on? And have you ever been given anything you couldn’t fix?
There’s nothing we haven’t been able to work on so far. Mechanical engineering had some propane vehicles that we worked on once.
Probably the oddest thing we’ve worked on so far is a compost turner. It is 8 to 10 feet wide and 12 to 14 feet tall. It hooks on the front end of a bulldozer, which pulls it through the compost. It picks the compost up, churns it and lays it back down.
Aside from work, what activities are you involved in?
Right now, I am an emergency medical technician intermediate. I’m going to take (what is known as) a bridge class so I can get oriented to the new curriculum that’s coming out next year. I’ll learn how to administer additional medications on top of what I can administer now.
I’m a part-time firefighter in Piatt County, and I’ve been doing the firefighting almost nine years. We got called out once when a university employee’s barn was on fire. It had a bunch of equipment in it – tractors and stuff – but we couldn’t do much more than save the foundation.
Why did you get into firefighting?
It was just always something that I wanted to do. I tried to get on with the city of Monticello fire department, but it just never worked out. I had already started working here (at Illinois) by the time they finally called me.
I’m also on the state Emergency Medical Response Team and am the assistant coordinator for the Emergency Management Agency in Piatt County.
I got called out to go to the south side of Chicago, and spent a day and a half this summer assisting at a cooling shelter they’d set up at McCormick Place. There were about 150 people there who were without power on a 99-degree day. We helped serve food, provided basic medical exams and helped people obtain medications, if they’d forgotten to bring theirs with them.
Have you had to do any disaster preparedness drills?
We just had a drill recently where we set up a decontamination unit. We went through a full-scale exercise, a six-hour drill, during the fall of 2005 where there was a supposed failure at the Clinton power plant. There was a cloud that was heading toward various towns, and we had to communicate what was going on. That was an eye-opener.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working or handling emergencies?
I just enjoy relaxing. I do a little woodworking. I’ve made decorative cages, a clock, a bookshelf, a snowman decoration for the yard and a gun-display cabinet.