Nanci Watkins, recently retired from running Southern Oregon Sanitation in the Upper Rogue Valley, said she “knew that she had been accepted into the community when she went into the local grocery store and received five hugs.” Nanci and Husband Ray have called it quits after 16 years serving the communities of Eagle Point, Shady Cove, Prospect, Gold Hill and a good portion of the countryside in between. They hold franchises for refuse collection in four counties, and 13 cities.
The Watkins came here from Alaska in 1997, following careers in other lines of work. Nanci was with the human resources department of a large wood products firm and Ray worked for the state of Alaska, following his time in the Army National Guard. Their thirty-five year marriage is a testament to the fact that married couples can work together and still find they can maintain a loving home. Ray says that at first they would bring the job home with them, but later decided that they had work time for work and home time for their relationship.
Ray says of S.O. S. that “the whole thing is a learning process. You’re always seeking answers” because there are always new problems. Their company belongs to an association that seeks answers to problems common to everyone in the same industry, in dealing with environmental and political issues.
The Watkins said they have tried to work closely with folks in the area since they began with S. O. S. Ray says they community reciprocated and “they were very good to us.”
The Watkins have had to roll with the punches over the years, but always tried to provide the best service for their customers. They altered the size of their receptacles when it was needed and have provided recycling cans that keep all the refuse from the landfill. Nanci says that a number of people feel that the recycled materials don’t have a cost, but there is a cost to transport them to the proper facility. They also instituted the use of orange cans to accommodate the handicapped, and then offer a little more service to those so that their garbage gets to the proper place without undue hardship.
A couple of the challenges the couple has faced is the increasing cost of trucks and the costs of transportation. Nanci says it costs roughly $1 per mile for every mile the trucks have to move. One of the savings though has been automation which enabled them to absorb some of the increased costs.
In retirement, the couple plans on moving to Wisconsin where their only son, Jason, is head hockey coach at Concordia University, located near Madison. They want to spend time going to games and getting to share with grandkids. They have been actively seeking a home near there and say they will probably sell their home which is currently only a short distance from their former offices.
Winters are going to be a special time for them, because they have some dreams about vacationing in Puerto Rico, traveling to New England in the fall and touring Michigan during the snowy season around Christmas. As you might expect, one of the items on the “bucket” list for Nanci is to finally get the chance to drive the Zamboni ice resurfacing machine which prepares the surface of the ice during breaks in the hockey action. Wisconsin’s gain will certainly be the Rogue Valley’s loss, especially in the character department.