St. Paul's Public Works Director Sean Kershaw wanted to know what it was like for employees who work long hours clearing city streets of snow during Minnesota's winters. So he trained and became certified to operate the vehicles just in time for a decidedly not snowy season.

Snowplowing is an essential city service and knowing what it's like for employees helps him communicate about the work they do back to the public, said Kershaw, who has served in the role since 2020. Kershaw shared his experience with one of the city's most visible jobs Monday in a thread on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"I really wanted as much as possible to learn firsthand. When I went out to the first snowplow operators training, I think they thought that I would show up and say something and leave. I hung out for a few hours every day as much as I could," Kershaw said.

While Kershaw had ridden in plows with drivers during snow emergencies, he had no idea what it was like to drop the plow onto the pavement.

Last September he received his CDL permit, allowing him to spend more time practicing. Kershaw completed the annual snowplow operators training "rodeo," a required course of classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction where he learned to lift the plow and round corners. He was fully commercially licensed in November. When 6 inches of snow fell last Friday — the first significant snow this year — Kershaw was finally able to drive and move snow around.

"It was super fun. I mean, this sounds super geeky," Kershaw said. "When you're really plowing snow, it's bumpy and noisy and you've got to really pay close attention. You're maneuvering the truck and you're manipulating the plow."

Plowing wasn't Kershaw's first time trying field work — he's taken confined-space training to shovel in the sewers and has gone out with bridge workers.

It is satisfying to see the streets cleared of snow in real time, he said. Seeing that impact in the community right away is one of the things he finds most attractive about working in Public Works, he said. His office values that, even amid the hard work.

While Kershaw wished he had a bit more time to plow before snow disappeared from the forecast, after last winter's snow, Kershaw was happy city employees got a reprieve.

"We're trying to recruit more people. We want to train more people," he said. "It was a rush to get in the truck."