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Updated 10:00 AM September 8, 2008




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Spotlight: Parking maintenance worker keeps things tidy

The clean, litter-free stairs, stairwells and elevators in campus parking structures are thanks to parking maintenance workers like Garnet Sharpe.
(Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)

Sharpe, an Ann Arbor native now living in Milan, has worked for the University since 1977.

"We pick up trash and check the stairwells, check elevators, check stairways and clean up messes," says Sharpe, who typically starts her day at 5 a.m. at the Church Street structure or carport. "I make sure all my lights are working and there are no dark spots."

After leaving school at 16, Sharpe waited tables and worked as a bartender. A single mom — daughter Tammy was born in 1971 — Sharpe says she was glad to be hired at U-M as a custodian, because the job meant security.

"I went down to transportation and was a gas station attendant. From there I went to the blinds shop; I was a groundskeeper on central campus," Sharpe recalls. It was 16 years ago that she became a parking maintenance worker.

"I have one parking structure, eight service lots and five docks I check every day. I clean the glass in my stairwells, I wipe down everything, mop the elevator. I pick up cigarette butts, broken glass ... we try to keep things looking really nice."

In winter Sharpe and other maintenance staff assigned to parking structures plow snow, and keep stairs, sidewalks and ramps from getting slippery.

Back home with her husband and children, Sharpe enjoys camping and making scrapbooks. After getting married to husband George in 1996 — and inheriting stepchildren Jim, John, Dee and Jeff — she started her first scrapbook, about her wedding.

Her scrapbook projects in recent years have grown to include baby albums, wedding albums and memorials. "I do a scrapbook about wherever we camp out, of Halloween parties and Christmas in July parties," she says. Sharpe gets supplies to make scrapbooks from specialty stores in Chelsea and Novi.

One of her favorite scrapbook projects has been started but has yet to be finished. "I'm still working on my Disney one," she says of a three-scrapbook project to chronicle a family Florida Disney cruise vacation. "I'd do it all over again, it was the best vacation I have ever taken in my entire life.

"I want to make a retirement scrapbook when I get ready to retire, with blue and maize colors," she adds.

On working for the University, Sharpe says, "The benefits are great, the employees are all hard workers. I get along with all the guys."

She's also working on another project — earning a high school diploma, as she left school at age 16. "I don't want a GED, I want my diploma — it has more meaning," says Sharpe, who plans to earn it this fall.

The weekly Spotlight features staff members at the University. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at

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