November 27, 2021

Richard Blair: Oh, no. Snow!

On blustery days when flurries are in the forecast, students – and, yes, even faculty and staff – find themselves getting excited about a possible snow day. That’s when UMW’s new director of landscape and grounds, Richard Blair, gets to work.

Director of Landscape and Grounds Richard Blair

Director of Landscape & Grounds Richard Blair

He’s been at Mary Washington for nearly three decades, but in his new role, Blair has taken the helm. He heads the Sustainability Office and handles purchasing, along with a plethora of other responsibilities. He plans and directs all the department’s activities, including tree work, sidewalk repairs, waste and recycling collection and removal, paving and parking-lot maintenance, storm water management and – last but not least – snow removal.

So when Old Man Winter gives the rest of us a few extra hours under the covers, Blair gets the opposite. He’s up and at ‘em, by the light of the moon, making sure his crew does what it takes to keep Mary Washington safe – even under a blanket of snow.

Q: How do you like your new position as director of landscape and grounds?
A: Sometimes it’s a little unnerving, but I shared a lot of the duties for the last 27 years with a great supporter and leader, so most of the time I’m very comfortable with my abilities.  

Q: What’s the most difficult part of your job?
A: Shift changes for snow and telling the crews they have to work all night. Shiftwork is hard on everyone and as you get older, it seems to get harder.

 Q: How do you feel when you hear snow is forecast?
A: OH, NOOOOO! PLEASE BE WRONG!

Q: What advice would you give students headed to class in the snow?
A: Please look at the Snow and Ice Management Plan and follow the designated priority-one routes. They’re maintained more often than any other routes on campus. Sometimes they’re a few steps longer than maybe your normal route, but they’re much safer. No one wants to fall!

Q: What motivates you to wake up before dawn and do what you do?
A: I’ve been doing snow removal since I was 12, so it’s part of me … and it’s my job!

Q: Any funny job-related memories you’d like to share?
A: We had a fun sleigh-riding experience with students one night years ago! But I think the best memories are from students who’ve thanked the crews out there shoveling snow over the years. That acknowledgement – that the UMW staff is working very hard and in very unpleasant conditions to make them safe – matters.

Q: Some kids do silly things like turning their PJs inside out to encourage the snow. Do you do anything to discourage the weather?
A:  I try to be as prepared as possible. The better we prepare, the less snow we seem to get. Oh, and I’m not allowed to wear PJs to work.