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Thursday, May 5, 2016

City Water Dept.'s Charlie Wells earns top service award

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Greencastle Mayor Sue Murray attaches an American Water Works Association pin to the collar of Charlie Wells' shirt Wednesday during a reception for Wells at City Hall. Wells, a 45-year city Water Department employee, is the Central Indiana District winner of the John N. Hurty Award for service to the Indiana waterworks industry.
With a last name like Wells, a longtime Greencastle city employee almost has to be synonymous with water.

And he is. Charlie Wells has been employed with the City of Greencastle Water Department for more than 45 years, spanning 11 mayors and five water superintendents.

A City Hall reception Wednesday honored Wells not only for those 45 years of service but as the Central Indiana District of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) winner of the John N. Hurty Award for his lengthy service to the Indiana waterworks industry.

After Mayor Sue Murray clipped the AWWA pin to the collar of Wells' Greencastle Utilities shirt, the city's Water and Wastewater Supt. Richard Hedge addressed the rarity of his employee's achievement.

"It's the longest-serving (award) they've ever given out," Hedge said.

"It's a pleasure working with Charlie, that's for sure," Hedge added. "I know the rest of the crew would echo those sentiments."

Wells said 45 years ago, he had a part-time job at IBM Corp. when an opening came up in the Water Department and his uncle, the late longtime superintendent Leon Phillips, gave him a tour of the facilities and Wells was hooked.

"I always enjoyed being outdoors," he explained of his love for the work.

Wells started with the city on April 24, 1967 when the mayor was Raymond Fisher. Counting Mayor Murray, he has worked under 11 Greencastle mayors. Howard Brackney was water superintendent when Wells came aboard, followed by Leon Phillips, Terry Dale, George Russell and currently Hedge.

On his first day with the department, Wells recalled being sent to replace a fire hydrant in front of the Phillips 66 gas station on Indianapolis Road. That was on the spot where the original McDonald's was later located (now occupied by Family Video and a strip mall).

He was on duty when the "new" standpipe was built near Forest Hill Cemetery in 1979, not to mention when the department entered the computer age in 1994 and when the new filtration plant was built in 1995.

"He's been working here longer than he has been married to his wife (Marcia)," Mayor Murray noted.

"Thank you for sharing him with us," the mayor told Mrs. Wells, noting that it hasn't always been at the most opportune times her husband has been called out in an emergency.

Like the night the water main along U.S. 231 burst in temperatures of 20 below zero. Oh yeah, it was also Christmas Eve.

"I remember that" is all Wells says today.

When Wells began working for the city, he hadn't yet been trained to use a backhoe but he became one of the best at it, according to coworkers and other city officials.

"I don't know how many times I have driven down 231, and there goes Charlie on that backhoe," Deputy City Clerk Pam Pierce said.

Wells smiled and noted, "I've probably dug a hole in every street in town."

He was also the brave one called upon to climb to the top of the 137-foot-high elevated water tank to change the lights on the structure that used to stand along Wood Street.

"It was awful quiet up there," he recalled.

"He never let me know he was doing it until afterward," wife Marcia added.

"Charlie is a smart guy," Hedge praised. "He knows how to work smart."

He is also the city's go-to guy on water issues.

"Anytime anybody has a question," Mayor Murray said, "they always say, 'Ask Charlie, he knows.' You're a living history of the Water Department. We've been real fortunate to have you and your wisdom and knowledge this long.

"Forty-five years isn't enough," she added. "I hope for 45 more."

A 1965 graduate of Greencastle High School, Wells has two sons, Chris and Jeff.

The Hurty Award is named for Dr. John Newell Hurty, who was state health commissioner for the Indiana State Board of Health for seven terms (1896-1922) spanning 26 years.

A pioneer dedicated to fighting water-borne diseases, Dr. Hurty was instrumental in organizing community water systems operators in what was the forerunner of the American Water Works Association (AWWA).

Initially, Hurty's competency in school helped launch his long association with health, drugs and sanitation at age 16 when he went to work for Col. Eli Lilly. When Hurty left the company, he set up a drug store at Ohio and Pennsylvania Streets in Indianapolis with a chemistry laboratory, reportedly the first of its kind in Indiana.

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