Pictured Above: Freddie Morrison – WSIC Picture
It’s been nearly 37 years since the position of Statesville Sanitation Superintendent has been vacant – 37 years!
That’s right – it was January 10, 1983 when Freddie Morrison, the bass-playing musician from Alexander County, decided it was time to stop traveling with popular R&B band Janice and settle down. “I had been in L.A. for four years and began looking at my life, my age, my income … and realized I needed to settle down,” said Morrison, whose last day as Statesville’s Sanitation Superintendent is Monday, Sept. 30.
Some family members showed him the ad for the City’s sanitation superintendent opening, and he applied. With no solid waste experience, Morrison went through the testing and interview process and was offered the position by then City Manager Dale Emerson.
“He asked if I would be willing to go through the necessary training to run the division and I asked him if I could think about it over the weekend,” laughed Morrison. “I thought, ‘be careful what you pray for’.”
Around 1983, there had been some incidents in Iredell County of cross burnings and even a shooting, recalls Morrison. “I was going to be the first African American division head, so I talked with some other African American city employees about their experiences and decided to take the job.
“I’ve never had a problem because of my race. Now, I’ve had complaints and problems – but it wasn’t about being black,” he smiled.
Through the years, Morrison’s management of the Sanitation Division has been met with high praise from city managers, elected officials and especially, the public.
“I have never had to worry about the Sanitation Division and whether the work would get done. Most of the time, I never knew what challenges they may have faced each day,” said Scott Harrell, one of four Statesville Public Works Directors who has worked with Morrison.
“Even though they are often only noticed when things don’t go according to plans, Freddie and his division serve the City with integrity and dedication,” Harrell added.
In looking back over his tenure with the City, Morrison remembers starting at the job with 50 employees. (There are now 22 employees.) Trash was collected behind the residences, twice a week. “It was also leaf season and at that time, we had equipment that required the men to rake the leaves into the vacuum. There was no hose. They had to rake it right up to the equipment.”
In November 1988, the twice-a-week pick-up went to curbside. Then came Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and the workload was so heavy that pick-up went to once-a-week. It never went back.
Morrison oversaw the implementation of curbside recycling in 1991-1992, which involved the crews separating the recyclables at the curb. Automated recycling trucks and single stream recycling entered the scene in 2014. That meant new carts had to be distributed and new pick-up routes and guidelines enforced. Automated trash pick-up is a more recent change, again requiring new training for employees and residents. And the leaf collection equipment has definitely changed to include a truck with an automated vacuum hose that can be controlled by the driver of the truck.
As for Morrison and his music, he may have left his band in 1983, but he never left music. Since then, his music has been a part of the Statesville community, as he began playing in churches, formed and directed the Mitchell Community College Gospel Choir and started the all-male group “Day One” that later became “Joint Heir”. Currently, he is playing with the group “N-spire”. These musical endeavors have put Morrison in the spotlight and enabled him to also bring positive attention to the City and more importantly, the Sanitation Division.
“I’ve tried to make a difference as a person, as a superintendent and as an employee,” explained Morrison. “I wanted everything I did to reflect positively on the City.”
Morrison has announced no specific plans for his retirement. “But I have about 100 odd jobs to do,” he joked. And he wants to give more attention to his band. He lets you know without hesitation that he doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
Harrell summed up the feelings of the city employees who have worked with Morrison. “I’m thankful to have worked with Freddie at the City and am even more grateful for the person he is and the impact he has had on the community.”
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