Plow driver lives for race day
Updated: December 18, 2012 3:20PM
Winter white is no match for OSHA orange when Kenilworth Public Works pro Don Betke is at the wheel of his safety cone-colored snowplow. Betke, a 20-year village employee, is the man behind the wheel and under the hood, if and when a trusty municipal vehicle breaks down. A 1981 Evanston Township H.S. graduate, Betke lives in Morton Grove with his wife Barbara of 22 years. They’re proud of their 55 plus nieces and nephews.
Q. Talk about your career path.
A. I went to Triton Junior College (River Grove). I’ve got a degree in automotive technology. I started in the car business, and then I was working at the Buick dealer in Wilmette, and then kind of started looking around for jobs in public service, got here in 1992.
Q. What is your winter advice to residents?
A. My advice to residents is that we’re out there trying to get the roads open and safe for you, so playing a game with a snow plow, you’re never going to win. Just let us do our job and we’ll get it so you can get home or get wherever you have to go. People tend to tailgate snowplows. They tend to pull up in front. These things aren’t easy to move around, especially when you’re on narrow side streets. So if you see the truck, just let us get through and get it open for you, and then you can have your street back.
Q. There are 25 curb miles of street in Kenilworth. How long does it take to do a plow pass?
A. If you’ve got an inch of snow or two inches of snow overnight and you’re cleaning up, you could probably get the whole town plowed in about two hours. So it takes anywhere (in a decent snow) from three to four hours from the time it stops to get everything done.
Q. So how did you get into the Public Works field?
A. I was born in Evanston. My father worked for the City of Evanston in the street department, so I kind have done what he had done. He plowed snow, he drove a sweeper. I’ve done that. I always liked what he did so that’s kind of what I do now. Like I said, I saw my father do it and it was something I always wanted to do. I was lucky enough to be here and this is where I’ll end up until I retire.
Q. What is your wish for the New Year?
A. My wishes for the New Year? To see the Miller Lite number 2 car win its second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup. I like racing. My wife will tell ya, I’ll get up at 4 o’clock in the morning to watch a Formula One race on a Sunday afternoon, so if they push shopping carts in a circle, I’ll watch it. I always cheer for the sweeper at the track. Everybody else is sitting down and having a beer and I’m the guy standing up when the sweeper goes by when they clean up the track.