Being in a crisis response role has been challenging, but fun for Sheena Johnson.
In the 12 years Johnson has been working for the City and County of San Francisco, she never expected to have something like COVID-19 happen so unexpectedly. “San Francisco has a history of earthquakes so I always figured it would be an earthquake. I never thought about anything else,” Johnson shared.
Johnson is a Strategic Engagement Specialist in the SFPUC’s Wastewater Enterprise. She works closely with Greg Norby, the enterprise’s Assistant General Manager, in employee engagement and recognition, internal communications, and workforce development. Johnson’s daily responsibilities involved visiting wastewater facilities to ensure that employees concerns were being heard and hard work was being acknowledged, supporting the Wastewater Enterprise Training and Education Center, and managing special projects, such as assisting with the planning of the Southeast Community Center. She also manages the Wastewater Enterprise’s internal newsletter PIPELINE to highlight the people who work behind the scenes and ensure the city’s wastewater services continue running 24/7 to protect public health.
Johnson’s work routine changed after the Mayor of San Francisco declared a local emergency in February. Johnson has been deployed since late March to assist the SFPUC’s Department of Operations Center (DOC) as Logistics Chief in response to COVID-19.
Logistic Chiefs are responsible for ensuring that SFPUC staff have the necessary supplies to perform their jobs and continue providing the essential services of water, power, and sewer to our community. In this role, Johnson has secured resources such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies for employees and all SFPUC facilities, and managed the process of fielding assignment requests from the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for the deployment of SFPUC Disaster Service Workers (DSW) to new roles in response to the pandemic.
“We’re currently rolling out mandatory health screenings at all SFPUC facilities which required all hands-on deck with the DOC staff for: a quick implementation plan, coordination with those facilities, PPE for health screeners and staff, and training. Seeing new projects like this quickly come to life for the protection of our colleagues, who are all essential service workers, and their families is very rewarding to be a part of,” stated Johnson.
Johnson has managed to perform her disaster service worker role while continuing with her regular job responsibilities. Although this has been challenging, Johnson shared that being in this role has been an honor and surprisingly fun because of the great group of people she has met and worked with at the DOC. “From the cool and pragmatic leadership of Josh Gale, to the clutch resourcefulness of Greg Margida—who we fondly call G-Unit—to my almost daily calls with Matt Dobbs from the Water Quality Division, these are people I either knew little about or didn’t know existed before March, and I’m now proud to say I work with them. It has honestly been a great experience despite the circumstances,” said Johnson.
With the extra time indoors and restrictions to socialize, which have limited Johnson’s time with her mom and loved ones, she has been venturing on new activities at home in her free time. “My mom makes amazing food and since the pandemic does not allow me to enjoy her cooking, I have attempted to makes some of her dishes myself. They have turned out okay and I am still alive after eating them, but I’m still not a fan of cooking.” Johnson has also been rowing (on a machine), hiking, and watching “Breaking Bad” for the first time.
The SFPUC, like many other organizations around the world, is going through a transition to adapt to the new way of working while protecting the health and safety of its employees. Johnson and her DOC team have been managing new processes to meet current needs such as health screenings, disaster service worker deployments, and whatever is needed to support the citywide emergency team. “I enjoy being a Logistics Chief because it is fast-paced, and I can see the impacts immediately. I have no reservations about coming in to work every day. This role has given me the opportunity to interact more with people from other SFPUC enterprises and City agencies, and appreciate the roles we all play in keeping this city going,” stated Johnson.