‘I love my job’: Sharon Plump’s work as Groundskeeper

Sharon Plump is a Groundskeeper with the Facilities Department at Cerritos College. When she is mowing, edging, and trimming, Plump is smiling – even when no one is looking. This woman’s mantra is, “I love my job!”

Johnny Paycheck’s Country music hit “Take This Job and Shove It!” chronicles an employee who hates his job, has had enough of the boss, and tells him so in no uncertain terms. This song became the battle cry of the American blue collar, white collar, no collar worker in the 1980s. Plump’s uniquely positive, upbeat attitude toward her work makes her the antithesis of Paycheck’s antagonistic employee.

Passion for gardening and the outdoor life began when Plump was eight. She learned her gardening and landscape skills from her grandmother. When she graduated high school, Plump took a job as a bank teller. It took one day for her to realize she was in the wrong business. Even though she is a people person who is eager to serve, she found it very difficult to deal with difficult people and their money.

Plump left the world of high finance and took a job with a landscape company. She likes to challenge her body so being a groundskeeper allowed her to be outside, gardening, and interacting with people. “Gardening is a free stress reliever,” says Plump.

Plump was serious about her new career, taking classes and obtaining certificates in landscape maintenance. Even when she was employed at other southern California colleges, she always had her eye on Cerritos. She knew about the college because her mother was a Cerritos College graduate. When an opportunity to work with the Cerritos Facilities Department was posted, Plump did not hesitate to apply.

Sharon Plump was the first woman groundskeeper hired by the Cerritos College Facilities Department. Facilities Manager Tom Richey is very proud to have been the one to hire her. “Sharon is one of my best hires,” says Richey. The boss is also proud to let you know that Plump was awarded Employee of the Month after only six weeks – faster than anyone else in the department.

Richey recognized a special spirit in Plump. He assigned her to the college Quad so that she could interact with students who hang around the Student Center, especially the athletes. Plump may be maintaining grass and flowers, but garden fairy is also scattering the spiritual pixie dust of her positive attitude and timeless wisdom.

Plump and fellow teammate Donnie Hawkins believe it is important for employees to make the effort to reach out and show students and teachers respect by developing relationships. Students often thank them for their hard work, letting them know how much they appreciate what it takes to make the campus clean and attractive. “One little girl brought me a box of my favorite chocolates,” Plump revealed, “just because she thought so much of what I did for her campus.”

The Facilities Department company jackets are emblazoned with the words Facilities Team. Richey says it takes a lot of work to communicate the vision of the department to employees these days, “Everyone has a different idea of what the work is.” Older people have a different view of the job than younger people. Communication is the key to getting the job done. Not only does Richey have to communicate his vision to his team, but he also has to get the college instructors and Trustees to realize the vital role of his department.

Plump and Richey share a core vision – that their facilities department is the foundation of the education process at Cerritos. Without the work of custodial, plumbers, groundskeepers, painters, and tradesmen, the campus would not be well-maintained, would not be a comfortable work and study environment, and no one would want to be there. Plump points out the people judge the inside of a college campus or restaurant by the way it looks on the outside. She believes that people make snap judgments based on appearance. “Sometimes, they don’t even make it inside because of the way it looks on the outside.”