Ricky Mustian has always been a bridesmaid, never a bride.
That all changed earlier this month, when he was named Wendell’s Town Employee of the Year.
The 10-year veteran of the Public Works Department had been nominated for the award seven times, but never won it. Now he has. His reaction was, well, understated.
“When I realized (Town Manager Teresa Piner) was talking about me, I thought ‘This is great. I won employee of the year,” Mustian said.
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Mustian, 52, joined the town staff in 2005 after his wife, Joanna, saw an opening advertised.
“I had been working in construction and I really wanted something with benefits,” Mustian said. The Rolesville native wasn’t sure at first that he wanted to work for the town, but he applied and says now, he’s glad he did.
The public works department, which often does some of the more thankless work in town government, doesn’t sport the kind of visibility of workers in other departments, but Mustian said they work well together. “I think the guys I work with help motivate me. They make my work look better,” he said. The public works employees all enjoy a good laugh together, Mustian said, but he says they are a serious group when it comes to getting their work done. “We know when it’s time to laugh and play, but we know when it’s time to work, too,” Mustian said.
Alton Bryant, Wendell’s Public Works Director, says Mustian has a work ethic that impacts others in the department. “He’s very reliable. He’s committed to doing the best job he can whenever he takes something on,” Bryant said. “He takes pride in what he does.”
Mustian says he tries to live up the Bryant’s goal for the department. “Alton told us when he first came and we had that first meeting that he wanted us to leave things better than we found them. Everything I do, I try to keep that in mind. I’ve thought about that a lot since he said it to us,” Mustian said.
Like many of the employees in the Public Works Department, Mustian is a jack-of-all trades. One day he may be putting in a new sidewalk. The next day, he’s sweeping leaves off the streets and sidewalks downtown. He says he likes the variety, but he particulary enjoys building new sidewalks or repairing old ones. He’s the team leader when public works employees have to take on that task. “I like working with concrete. I love construction. With a sidewalk, when you finish the job, you can see the results of your work. It’s almost immediate,” Mustian said.
He also gets the unenviable task of clearing snow from the streets and sidewalks around town when Mother Nature lays down a dusting of the white stuff.
“It’s not easy, but we know it’s got to be done. It’s not really that big a hassle. We generally know if it’s coming, so we make a plan before it gets here and we know what we have to do,” Mustian said.
Mustian isn’t all about work, though. The father of one grown step-son, Mustian uses his spare time to help others.
“He collects discarded bicycles during the year and refurbishes them and gives them to struggling families,” Bryant said. It’s that kind of persona that Bryant said makes Mustian employee of the year material.
“We all had the experience when we were younger of picking the people we wanted on our team. He is the person I would always want on my team.”