Writer  /  Samantha Stutsman     Photographer  /  Brian Brosmer

It’s not anywhere near a woman’s world in the Noblesville Street Department, but Patty Johnson is fairing pretty well for herself. To this day, she is one of the only female street commissioners in the state of Indiana.

“I have not had any issues with my staff,” Johnson said. “They have all been very welcoming, and I think they respect me. Occasionally, I’ll get a caller, and they’ll want to talk to the man that runs the department.”

She laughs recalling this request and says it just comes with the territory. Johnson understands what it’s like to be outnumbered by men.

IMG_3668“I grew up in a family of all boys,” Johnson said. “So maybe I’m a little bit of a tomboy, but this kind of stuff really interests me.”

The kind of stuff she’s talking about is street cleaning, repairing potholes, leaf collection, snow removal, mosquito control, maintaining public street signs and beyond.

“I primarily deal with our budget, employees and any residential concerns,” Johnson said. “I determine what kind of equipment we’re going to buy and make sure we’re meeting safety requirements.”

Johnson has worked for the city since 1991. She’s held two secretarial jobs prior to being appointed street commissioner in November 2011.

“When a position came open at the street department for a secretary, I thought I’m going to give that a try,” Johnson said. “I just really enjoy working with the public. I really enjoy the fact that every day is different for us. No two days are exactly the same.”

In the winter, this is an understatement. She says you never know when snow is going to hit; it’s often just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The 2013 winter months that lasted long into 2014 challenged the street department. The weather brought some of the most severe conditions in city history.

Johnson and her team powered through; she received the Stake in the Ground Award in 2014. The Noblesville Common Council hands this award out annually to a department director that has shown a resilient dedication to serving the community.

She was anonymously nominated by three different council members, all speaking with insistence that she was the obvious choice for the award:

One said, “After last year’s winter, the street department went above and beyond with keeping Noblesville’s streets safe for our citizens. The street department also does a great job all year long while probably being shorthanded on personnel.”

Another said, “2014: the year of one of the most severe winters in history. Patty guided the street department and made Noblesville’s response to the storms one that was exemplary, better than surrounding communities, the county and the state.”

The third said, “With all the snow we had last year, she did a good job of managing to keep her costs in line. The street department kept our roads clean in record time.”IMG_2738

Receiving the award came as a complete surprise, and Johnson says that her department couldn’t have been more excited.

“It really helps morale to have them know that they have been acknowledged, even if they weren’t actually the one that the award was given directly to,” Johnson said.

The award may be displayed in her office, but she takes very little credit for it.

“I am blessed to have such a great group of people to work with,” Johnson said. “We have a wonderful team, and everybody works together and tries to look out for the residents. We are very fortunate in that respect.”

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