Spotlight on Daryl Matthews
Most every morning as District 7 employees file into the Auto Pool office on P2, they are greeted by three friendly staff members. Some employees are in a hurry to check out a vehicle and get on the road, but they should rest assured that the staff is on a mission work as fast as possible to get them on their way.
“To run the Auto Pool, it takes a team of dedicated employees to get the job done right,” said Business Services Manager James Deno who oversees the unit. “We do what we can to make sure Caltrans employees stay safe while staying mobile.”
One staff person, who is relatively new to Auto Pool, is Daryl Matthews.
Matthews, a Los Angeles native, raised in the south LA neighborhood of Watts, has worked for Caltrans for six years; three years in District 7. He started his Caltrans career as a highway maintenance worker in District 5 (San Luis Obispo) in 2007 and joined District 7 in 2010.
Long before joining Caltrans, Matthews honed his work ethic while working for the Watts Labor Community Action Committee after graduating from David Star Jordan High School. He joined the United States Air Force in 1985 and served till 1991.
As an Air Force communications specialist, Matthews worked for a unit that provided postal service for airbases and its military service personnel.
"I worked in the back of mail trailers for the entire US airbase slinging mailbags to ensure all the service men and women received their correspondences," said Matthews.
Through the years, Matthews was stationed in Turkey, Germany, Italy, and England. For a short time while stationed Kaiserslautern, Germany, (known as K-Town), Matthews worked as a disc jockey in one of the officer's clubs where he was known as "DJ Suave."
"It was a short-lived gig, but I liked the opportunity and the music,” said Matthews.
In fact, there is usually music in the background in the Auto Pool Office, coming from the general direction of Matthews' desk area.
"Of all the countries where I was stationed, I liked Incirlik, Turkey the most. It's great. There's just something about the people, they are so real,” he said. “At some of the Air Force bases, you wouldn’t even know that you were in a foreign country; there were so many Americans."
Matthews’ Air Force duties of sorting and delivering mail and spinning music was far from a vacation abroad.
“We worked in blizzard like conditions,” said Matthews. “If any little piece of cold metal from the mailbags touched my arm, it was painful."
After military service, Matthews worked in the sales and quality assurance industry before joining Caltrans in the Santa Barbara area.
Obviously, Matthews is no stranger to hard work and adversity. As many of Caltrans Maintenance crew members know, roadside work zones can be very hazardous.
“While I was working with a tree crew alongside State Route 154, I was struck by a falling tree branch,” said Matthews. “I remember thinking that someone hit me when I got up from the ground. I was in a daze, but I was up! I still have some aches and pains."
Often, Caltrans road crews respond to pick up dead animals on the roadway. This is known as code '10-32' or 'ten-thirty-two'. In most cases, 1032s are often small animals like dogs, cats, or raccoons. But for Daryl Matthews, his first 1032 call was for a 300-pound buck.
“It was a huge buck and I was alone, shocked and frankly scared,” he chuckled. “The vehicle that collided with the animal was badly damaged and I wasn’t sure how to humanely remove the buck from the roadway - by myself.”
“It was an awakening experience,” he said. "The buck was the about the size and weight of six US Air Force mail bags! The pain of cold metal in a German blizzard had nothing on this."
With a chain, a truck and some muscle, Matthews successfully and humanely removed the buck from the roadway.
Now in District 7's Auto Pool, Matthew enjoys helping people get safely on the road and back to the office without incident. To do that, he offers these tips:
• There are no "same day" reservations. Please reserve a vehicle 24-hours in advance.
• If you need a vehicle unexpectedly, fill out your paperwork (Form 07-APVR-01) and come down to P2 to see if there are available vehicles. • If there are none, your name will be put on a waiting list.
• Once a vehicle becomes available, you have 30 minutes to check it out or it will go to the next person on the waiting list.
• If you will not be using your reservation, please call 213-897-0855 to cancel the so that someone else can use the vehicle.
• Keep it clean. Please remove debris and food and drink containers from the vehicles.
• Re-fuel the car when it gets below the half-mark or sooner!
• Note any damage or repairs needed when returning a vehicle.
• For Roadside Assistance, a phone number is on the yellow mileage card given when checking out the vehicle.
• If you're in an accident while on the job, fill out a Form 269 or 270 immediately, that are found in every glove compartment.