‘Conscientious’ City Custodian Josh Bennett returns to classroom to move up ladder

single-meta-cal November 6, 2017

The promotion was a simple progression in Josh Bennett’s career with the City of Huntsville. Then a lot of complicated things started to kick in, including lost paperwork, a frustrating introduction to geometry and rusty study skills.

But file this one under “…happily ever after.”

Bennett got the job. He got the admiration of an educator. And, best of all, he even got the girl of his dreams. A diploma, a promotion and a fiancé. Not a bad six weeks.

Bennett, 38, is officially Building Custodian II on the City’s job chart. His responsibility is to serve as night-shift supervisor of janitorial work, working with City employees and a contractor, Office Pride, who assure that some 30 different City properties are cleaned each day.

A diploma, a promotion and a fiancé. Not a bad six weeks

The custodial crew works primarily at night, so much responsibility falls back on him. It’s an underappreciated piece of the government puzzle.

He was approved for the promotion last spring by all parties concerned. Then the complications arose.

Bennett attended Cullman High School in the late 1990s, but never graduated.

“I quit high school made some stupid personal choices and thought I didn’t need to finish,” he says.

However, once he got out into the “real world,” working jobs in the area and in a couple of northern states, he recognized the need for a diploma, so he earned his GED (General Education Development) nearly 20 years ago. Trouble is, the State of Alabama turns out to be not so efficient when it comes to GED record-keeping. And neither are certain young men who take those tests. The City of Huntsville HR department couldn’t find proof as it did its due diligence and through frequent moves, Bennett could no longer find the paperwork.

“After hemming and hawing the only option I had was to do it again,” he says.

Brushing up on the old, learning the new

He enrolled at Calhoun Community College in a GED course, “getting brushed up on some things and learning some new things,” he says. Including geometry, which he had not taken in high school.

Along the way, Bennett’s determination, his easy laugh and gregarious personality caught the attention of Karen Lovell, his GED instructor. She was so impressed, she emailed Mayor Tommy Battle with a message of praise for Bennett.

In part, she wrote: He is “conscientious, dedicated and sticks with a task. Also, he is so very well read and has a really wry sense of humor. He brings with him wherever he goes enthusiasm and joy.”

Lovell helped coach Bennett through the GED process and, on Aug. 31, and, “not only did he pass, but he passed with flying colors.”

He was tested in math, English, reading, history and science. He scored “college ready” on everything but math, which he passed with a little room to spare.

“I was horrible in math,” he laughs. “I spent 99 percent of my (study) time doing math. I did more math than I ever want to see again.”

He got the GED. He got the girl

Earlier this month, there was an even bigger day than a GED test. Bennett proposed to his girlfriend of two years, Stacy Dawson, who had encouraged him throughout his studies.

“I’d get frustrated and would be upset, and she was good about calming me down,” he says. “She’d tell me, if I did it once I could do it again.”

Bennett is appreciative of the managers in General Services for their support and patience.

“My not having a GED when I thought I did was a personal problem. It wasn’t their issue,” he says. “But they let me continue to work on it and gave me time to get it corrected. That was more than they owed me.  (General Services director) Jeff Easter stuck with me and he was very encouraging.”

The GED is just a start. After the wedding, he plans to begin taking college courses.

“I’d like to go farther with the City,” Bennett says.