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Town of Outlook Spotlight: Dylan Herron, Landfill Manager

Part Six in our special series profiling town employees takes us out to the local landfill
Outlook landfill manager Dylan Herron says the local facility is standing out among many in the province.

OUTLOOK - This community and regional newspaper has been producing stories for this special series for roughly six months or so by now, and in delving deep and taking a look at the people who work each day to help make the community of Outlook what it is, one thing has been thoroughly consistent in each of the profiles that have hit newsstands, mailboxes, and blew up our website with traffic.

If you work for the Town of Outlook, it's not difficult at all to end up loving what you do for a living. In fact, it just may help.

Part Six of the series has this reporter sitting down with Dylan Herron, the landfill manager at the site located just outside of town.

This being his sixth year on the job, Dylan says the landfill is where he started with the Town and it's been a position that's allowed him to learn each day.

"I started on that side of the landfill, and so I started with the landfill and was actually hired for this position," said Herron. "I've got equipment experience, as I was an equipment operator since high school, and I've learned everything else kind of on-the-go or through training."

In a bit of a departure from previous interview subjects, when Dylan is asked what a typical day is like for him at the landfill, he can pretty much pinpoint what it is he'll be doing on any given day. That's different from others who've been asked this question, as others have said that their jobs provide not-so-typical days and weeks. From Herron's perspective, however, perhaps consistency is the key.

"It's pretty typical for me," he explained. "Basically, on Tuesdays when I get here, I run the gate and catch up on emails. From Wednesday to Thursday, those would be days when we want to compact. It's a little bit different right now with the new office, as I kind of have to be in here the whole time. When I was over there, I used to be able to do stuff around the yard at the same time. But the days are pretty typical; just keep the gate open and make sure that everything's tidy."

That's not to say that there haven't been some learning curves here and there or adaptations that have had to be made. Dylan says that with the landfill's hours now established, it's allowed him to get a feel for when the best time would be to go out and get this or that other chore finished up.

"They changed the hours here quite a few times," he said. "When I first started, it was open from 1-5 PM, and so the morning would be doing chores around the yard all day. Now, I kind of have to collaborate with the town shop to get someone to cover watching the gate so that I can do the rest of it. So really, none of it is super-typical, it can feel sort of random, but we do have a schedule that we want to keep up with."

Every person whose job has been spotlighted in this series of stories hasn't been shy when asked about the challenges that come with their daily work. Dylan, however, is an exception because it's not necessarily the work itself that he finds challenging; the rules that come from high above are perhaps a different story.

"I really don't know how to answer that one," he said. "I don't really find any of it too challenging. I guess it was challenging in the beginning because so many of the rules changed. I'd say the biggest challenge that I find is keeping people current with the rules. Not necessarily even the town rules, but more the government rules because they're always changing. If you notice, we're not just making that big hill with no liner or anything, and now we have the new cell. So there's always changing rules all the time, and that would probably be the hardest part."

However, the consistency and the drop-by-for-a-visit nature that come with Dylan's job have allowed him to get to know a lot of people and become more familiar with the people who call Outlook and area home.

"Getting to see everyone all the time," he said, when asked what he would consider to be the benefits of the job. "There are a lot of people who are out here, the 'regulars' you might call them, like in a coffee shop. I like talking to everyone and seeing everyone. That'd be my favorite part, as well as working with the crew. I like the town crew and the town shop guys."

Dylan says the landfill is capable of being very busy, particularly at this time of the year, but it's something that comes with its own phases.

"It can get busy," he said. "It's really in phases, though. As soon as the landfill opens for summer hours, we're consistently busy. You could get 30, 40, to 100 people a day through here. Then it slows down, and of course everyone waits for free dump days. I would say 50 people a day would be an average, and on a busy day it could be 150 people."

Herron says there are things that he hopes people know or will perhaps learn when it comes to disposing of chemicals and substances. He says it can just take the right - or perhaps the wrong - combination of liquids that could make for a potentially dangerous situation.

"Just keeping things sorted," said Dylan, touching on parts of his job that people might be blind to and should know more about. "Not mixing things that shouldn't be mixed, such as certain chemicals, and they can even be household items. For example, bleach and brake fluid, if they're combined, it'll put out a gas that could kill you. There are specific things you just don't want to combine, and if you ever have some sort of fluid or liquid, you always want to make sure that you show it to me so that we can do what's proper with it. Not just pouring everything in at random!"

Learning specific tasks as he's done them and getting to know the ins and outs of everyday work has given Herron a broader perspective on his job. He says it wasn't long after he started that he got the bug to try and discover all that he could about landfills, and the results have opened his eyes.

"I guess it's been eye-opening because I came as an equipment operator and then I learned everything related to landfills, and I sort of got obsessed with learning about landfills," he said. "So it was eye-opening in the beginning, and now we're kind of setting the trends for landfills within Saskatchewan. There are always things to learn and do different, and it involves keeping in touch with all the other landfills and seeing how they're doing things and if it's better than how we're doing it. For example, the wood chips, we don't have to source dirt so that's a huge cost savings. It gets rid of the trees without burning, so we're not polluting anything. The chip pile also doesn't freeze up in the winter, so we have to cover to keep up with our permit, and in the wintertime you have to bring the backhoe out and rip the soil."

Being born and raised in Outlook, Dylan has always called the Irrigation Capital of the Province home. To him, there really isn't anywhere else he'd rather be, and he's proud to be able to say that the place he works is starting to raise the bar and become noticed by others around Saskatchewan.

"We're kind of setting the trends," he said. "Lots of landfills got shut down, and basically they had to choose whether to become a transfer station or go like we are and try to regionalize. The only way to do this is to regionalize. Otherwise, it's not really worth it for the amount of residents that we have. Since we did that, now I'm looking into all the new stuff that people are doing. We're trying new things. Lots of people are still burning, and the only thing we burn is elm."

It seems as if the people that Herron sees on a daily basis who visit his place of work to drop off a load have realized that he can't necessarily leave during business hours. Knowing that, there are those who stop by and make Dylan's day a little brighter, and he only has one thing to say to them.

"I would want to say thank you," he said. "For the most part, the vast majority of the people are super, super friendly and nice out here, and it just makes my day so much easier. It can get boring out here sometimes in between people if there's not something else that I have to be doing. It really brightens up my day. Lots of residents are super nice, bringing slushes and cookies and that sort of thing. So thank you to them!"

Wrapping up our chat in perhaps the most positive way possible, Dylan mentioned to this reporter that he was getting married just days after our interview. On that note, let The Outlook extend its best wishes to Dylan and his new bride!