Goodbye Ronnie and Robert | Guest column

by Errol Speed

Orcas Recycling Services

Interim Facility Manager

I have had the great privilege in recent weeks to work in close quarters with the long-time operators of the Orcas Transfer Station, Ronni Silva and Robert Hammermeister.

Their mastery of the complex ebb and flow of solid waste and recyclables is impressive. Their ability to deal with any and all unforeseen problems in a graceful and efficient manner is nothing less than astounding. These two individuals have been the unsung “Superheroes” of our county solid waste system.

In taking a closer look at Robert “The Hammer” Hammermeister, we see that he operates the John Deere 410g Backhoe as if it was another limb connected to his body. I have observed Robert  pushing and packing complex loads of mixed solid waste to fill transfer trailers in a seamless dance that is beautiful to watch, and very difficult to replicate. I learned quickly that all loads of solid waste can be vastly different in nature and present a Rubik’s Cube of possibilities when attempting to pack a transfer trailer.

I cannot in good conscience omit Robert’s astonishing skill at backing the 48-foot long transfer trailers into the “Black Hole” trailer bay below the tipping floor.  In one fluid sweep Robert could place 70 feet of rolling  steel, so close to the wall my hand would not fit between the two – in the dark. And last but not least was the sense of humor Robert had about all the things that happened each day. He is “The Hammer Master.”

Now to Ronni Silva, who by the way has worked at the transfer station for more than 17 years.  Ronni has been the site manager for many years. She has been the face of the Orcas Transfer Station for a long time, and what a beautiful face.  That beauty is not only skin deep, as we all know, when as customers we have been greeted time and again by a glowing smile and a voice that seems to be able to calm a storm.

I thought maybe I would discover that this sweetness of spirit and happy countenance may have  been just very good professional customer relations. Those possibilities went out the window quickly as I watched day after day, hour after hour, customer after customer, Ronni influence each person in a positive and soothing manner.  She is the only person I know who can tell you “well how about we charge you for six cans of recycling today” (when you thought you only had one can), and make you feel like you got a good deal!  Having watched Ronni do this over and over again, a new verb seemed appropriate – Ronnify – to be inexplicably influenced in a soothing manner towards a positive outcome! Ronni managed all the transfer station flow, incoming and outgoing, and its operations with amazing grace, skill, efficiency, and kindness.

Ronni and Robert are irreplaceable and unique.  They will be missed greatly and we at ORS will do our best to meet the high bar they have set.  And as we continue operations at the Orcas Island Transfer Station without them by our side, we will forever be reaching for that high level of service that Ronni and Robert have provided to our community for all these years. Good fortune and Godspeed to you in your new adventure in life. You are always welcome at the “Scale Shack,” please visit us often.