On March 16, 1978, Jim Baylor began working at the City of Cape Girardeau’s Wastewater Treatment Facility after three and one-half years of college at Southeast Missouri State University and a trip to Vietnam with the United States Marine Corps.
Baylor was promoted to Chief Operator of the facility in 1995, and he began as a regional training officer with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources the same year.
“The Chief Operator makes sure the plant runs,” Baylor said. “He just about lives with it.”
As a regional training officer, Baylor taught other wastewater treatment facility employees from areas including Perryville, St. Mary, Cape Girardeau and Jackson, Mo.
Today, Baylor is both the Interim Wastewater Treatment Coordinator and Chief Operator.
The Facility is operated and staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With 11 employees running the Facility, workers are earning overtime hours. Baylor explained that employees work two, 12-hour shifts every other weekend, along with their daily duties.
With 6.4 million gallons of wastewater being processed a day, over 250 miles of sewer line and 31 lift stations pumping the water through the City, there is plenty of work to be done.
“It’s been a hard year,” Baylor said. “But we’re maintaining, that’s the main thing.”
With the new facility in sight, minor functioning repairs and upkeep are keeping workers busy, but no more major projects for the current Wastewater Treatment Facility are on the horizon.
“We’re doing the maintenance,” Baylor said. “If it breaks, we repair it. We’re keeping the painting caught up. We’re doing a lot of painting and upkeep, but we’re not doing anything real major.”
Wastewater treatment plant and system operators rank among police officers and firefighters in the top 10 jobs Americans can’t live without according to the Reader’s Digest article “Professions the United States Needs” by Charles B. Stockdale.
Baylor takes this statistic to heart as he explained the importance of a society with clean water, preventing disease and sickness.
“[Diseases] are all carried by wastewater,” Baylor said. “If you don’t have a good infrastructure with the wastewater, people will get sick.”
After working for the City for more than 30 years, Baylor has seen employees come and go. He has seen a $1.8 million rehabilitation of the Wastewater Treatment Facility, and he has given countless tours to college and high school students. Although Baylor is retiring from his position on July 27, it is evident that he is proud of the position he held at the Facility all these years.
“It’s not a glamorous job,” Baylor said. “I like a challenge. I like to multitask. I don’t know from one hour to the next what’s going to break or what I got to do, and I like it that way. It’s one of those jobs, you got to take pride and do it right, if you don’t, stuff will fall to the wayside.”
After his retirement, Baylor plans to go back to school at Southeast and finish his teaching degree.