Terrence Washington, lead mechanic for the Baltimore City Department of General Services, works to repair vehicles in the city's fleet.
Baltimore’s local government relies on people like Terrence Washington to maintain dozens of vehicles used to respond to emergencies every day.
The significance isn’t lost on Washington, the 48-year-old lead mechanic for the Baltimore City Department of General Services. The Trinidad and Tobago native believes their teamwork is essential and important now more than ever amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Some people have a feeling that they can do something more with their life, and I’ve always had that drive,” Washington said.
The Parkville resident is one of many “essential employees” serving the city during the pandemic. General Services employees not only work to ensure medic units and fire department vehicles are ready to respond to emergencies, but they also maintain the trucks used by sanitation crews to collect waste.
The Baltimore City Department of Housing & Community Development last month acknowledged Washington online, calling him “Mr. Reliable” due to “his mechanical acumen” and willingness to help others. He recently helped deliver more than 500 cots and blankets to the Red Cross, Baltimore Junior Academy and the Gilmor Community Center.
Washington declined to “take full credit” for the community center aid, which involved several trucks and volunteers from his department and various city agencies. The father of one called Baltimore “a nice city” filled with history that deserves to be taken care of.
“One of the things that I like about [General Services] is everybody is willing to help, and we always work as a team,” he said. “We’re willing to go the extra mile.”
Washington said he’s always had a passion for high performance vehicles, but the former DJ calls music “my first love.” He’s been employed by the city for the last four years, and he has 15 years of experience as a mechanic in Maryland. He credits his experience at car dealerships for his work ethic, adding that “you really have to put in hours to make money.”
Although the city initially paid him less than the dealerships, Washington called the government job “more stable” with “a wider range of equipment.” The city role introduced him to “a whole new field,” he said, because his coworkers taught him how to repair large trucks.
Tom Locklear, the city’s automotive maintenance supervisor, called Washington a "good worker” who was recently promoted. Chichi Nyagah-Nash, the city’s General Services director, said in a statement their employees often “go unrecognized” despite their “work behind the scenes in support of other agencies.”
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“Many city agencies have found themselves having to modify services and address new needs in the city that did not exist before the COVID-19 pandemic. As always, [General Services] team members are not only performing their regular tasks and responsibilities but are also providing additional support to our customer agencies,” Nyagah-Nash said.
Working during a pandemic is “surreal," Washington said, and his job now requires them to do more cleaning before they begin work on vehicles. The employees are sanitizing car doors, seats, mirrors, and anything else mechanics would normally touch, he said.
“Now you have gloves on for pretty much everything from the time you get to work, and you’re pretty much masked up,” he said. “There’s just so much you have to get used to because now you realize how much stuff we took for granted.”
Washington urges people to help their immediate neighbors during the pandemic. While he and his crew handle the vehicles serving “the backbone” of Baltimore, he said residents can be good neighbors by simply helping someone with their trash can.
“Everybody has a role to play,” he said. “Especially now. Just one little thing could help. If we could all try to help one another, especially now, it may go a long way."
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