Known as “Cisco,” Francisco Lastra is a Field Supervisor for the SFPUC’s Sewer Operations team, who celebrates diversity and inclusion in his professional and personal life.
During normal times, Lastra’s day usually consists of dispatching his team to certain jobs according to priority and emergencies. His team drives and operates vac-con trucks and closed-circuit television (CCTV) vans. The vac-con trucks are mainly used to clean catch basins (drains), and flush main sewers. However, the trucks are also used for special requests on an occasion by different departments such as the Department of Public Works’ sewer repair team to help them excavate around a maze of underground utilities to expose sewer lines for repair. The SFPUC’s CCTV vans are used for inspecting main sewers ranging in sizes from six inches to six feet. Lastra ensures he keeps good communication with his team and offer hands on and technical support when needed throughout the day.
Since San Francisco’s shelter-in-place order went into effect, the Sewer Operations team has broken up into three groups. Lastra works in the field for one week and telecommutes for two weeks. “While telecommuting, I assign online training courses to the crew such as FEMA and emergency response, harassment prevention, and other training. We also read, study, and do assignments from a wastewater book to stay up to date on standards, and best practices. I also communicate with outside vendors concerning maintenance and repairs for our equipment.”
Lastra’s team was one of the first groups to be deployed to the City’s Emergency Operations Center and Department Operations Center. They were tasked to deliver food to several non-profit organizations, such as Project Open Hand, City Suppers, and Self-Help for the Elderly. One of his team members also worked as an interpreter at one the City’s food distribution sites.
Lastra was born and raised in San Francisco. His grandparents on both his mother’s and father’s sides planted roots in the City at a very young age after World War II. “All my family history is in the San Francisco Bay Area,” he said. “My father still lives in the house I grew up, located in the Portola/Excelsior neighborhood. San Francisco is my home!”
Lastra shared that one of his biggest inspirations to work in public service is his family. “I started my own family at a young age, and my last job was good, but it was slow during the winter season and it was not stable. My goal was to purchase a home close to San Francisco, where I grew up,” he said. “With a seasonal job, I knew purchasing a home would be tough. I wanted my children to grow up in a place they can call home, with a stable environment. I knew the City and County of San Francisco was one of the places to work and I was determined to get a job there.”
Lastra said being a public servant is also right up his alley because he is a people person. “It is very satisfying for me to see the appreciation from the people in San Francisco when you help them out, or even just converse with them. Most of the people that I encounter in the community, acknowledge that in sewer services we have tough jobs and they are grateful for our service. That motivates me.”
In reflecting on his life and family in San Francisco, Lastra celebrates diversity every day in his professional and personal life. “Diversity is a way of life for me. That’s all I know,” he shared. “I grew up with ALL ethnic cultures. As a young kid growing up in San Francisco, I was always surrounded by people who looked and didn’t look like me. We always embraced our differences to the point that our ethnicity or race were never a matter to be discussed. We learned about each other’s cultures and enjoyed it.”
For Lastra, diversity and inclusion was and still is about getting along with people and having understanding, compassion, and empathy. Being promoted and working in an inclusive environment has been very important to him. Lastra started as a truck driver from day one in the SFPUC’s Sewer Operations team 17 years ago, and has worked in almost every aspect of this job, promoting up to where he is now.
“In my current role, I have made decisions to keep my colleagues safe, helped my team grow professionally, and contributed to a better and inclusive work environment. I am proud of the experience I have gained and the work I have accomplished in my career with the SFPUC. In my opinion, experience along with common sense, help us get things done efficiently and effectively. I am excited for what is yet to come,” he shared. “Up until now, I wasn’t aware of Immigrant Heritage Month. However, I am grateful today for the hard work, and sacrifice that my ancestors went through when they migrated here.”