During the height of the pandemic when much of the community was hunkered down in an effort to keep themselves and their loved ones safe from COVID-19, many of our city employees were on the front lines working hard to ensure Romulus remained operational. One of these front-line workers is Justin Laskaska—longtime resident and Public Works Department employee.
Justin took up employment with the Romulus Public Works Department 23 years ago, just a few years after graduating from Romulus High School in 1995. With little interest in working behind a desk all day, Justin knew that as a public works employee he would have the opportunity to work outside and directly with residents—many of whom he calls friends or family. While Justin has been with the Public Works Department for over two decades, his current role as foreman includes organizing the team, overseeing maintenance schedules and budgeting for road repairs and all city buildings.
“At the Romulus Department of Public Works, we really care about residents, and we have their best interests in mind when taking on any new project,” says Justin. “We’ll always do our best to accommodate their needs and address any questions they may have.
Despite being well-versed on the ins and outs of public works, Justin and the rest of the department faced a multitude of new challenges as a result of the pandemic. Keeping the safety and well-being of employees top of mind, the Department of Public works initiated rotating schedules, where small crews would work three weeks on and three weeks off to continue providing employment while maintaining Romulus’ infrastructure. In the face of these challenges, Justin and his team excelled.
“Justin exemplifies the role of a DPW worker and is a leader in the industry of supervisions in this economy and climate,” said Public Works Department Director Robert Scappaticci. “He has shown tremendous grit and resiliency during the pandemic, juggling a number of City tasks that are outside his normal day-to-day work.”
According to Justin, who has lived in Romulus for 43 years, working with residents is the most rewarding part of his job and why he continues to dedicate himself to the city’s success. One of Justin’s favorite memories growing up was attending the St. Aloysius summer festivals with his friends and family.
To learn more about the Romulus Department of Public Works, please visit http://www.romulusgov.com/departments/public_services/public_works.
Sgt. Nicole Harris
When she was five years old and living in an apartment complex in Romulus, a power line fell and struck Sgt. Nicole Harris. The accident had badly hurt her, so her mom frantically scooped her up and promptly called 911. First on the scene was now-retired Romulus Police Officer Jerry Champagne, who comforted both Sgt. Harris and her mother while they waited for paramedics. Officer Champagne remained in contact with Sgt. Harris over the years.
While most of Sgt. Harris’ experiences with the police were positive, like the time when she was five years old, there were both positive and negative encounters that led her to join the Police Academy.
“I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do but become a police officer,” Sgt. Harris says. “If I could have a positive impact on just one person’s life, like Jerry Champagne had on mine, I knew it would be a career worth having.”
If you ask Sgt. Harris why she chose to become a Romulus police officer, she will tell you Romulus chose her. Romulus is her home. It is where she grew up, where she played little league and where she became a Romulus Police Explorer—part of a youth police department academy. Ever since she was young, Sgt. Harris dreamed of becoming a Romulus Police Officer. When the opportunity arose to join the department, she took it.
Sgt. Harris has served the Romulus Community for over a decade, most of which she has spent working nights and getting to know the local midnight store clerks and front desk workers. Sgt. Harris understands that people who call the police are not always having the best of days, so she tries to always be kind and approachable when dealing with the public.
“The Romulus Police Department strives to be the best it can be and treat everyone with kindness. We teach our officers to treat every single person they encounter as if they are a family member,” says Sgt. Harris. “In a time when policing can be seen as negative, I’ve had so many residents encourage and thank me for my work. Everything I do is for the betterment of the Romulus community and it means so much to have their support.”
Sgt. Harris has four beautiful children with her husband Eric. Their oldest child is in the Navy and stationed in Japan, and their 11-year-old son and 9-year-old twin daughters keep the family busy with competitive hockey.
You may not know lifelong Romulus resident Wayne Laginess, but chances are you’ve been touched by the impactful ways he gives back to the community as the Scout Master of local Boy Scout Troop 872.
Wayne has Romulus in his DNA. His grandparents, Gilbert and Olive White, moved to the city in the 1940s, and his family has called it home ever since. He attended Romulus Community Schools before graduating in 1981. Wayne’s five children followed in their father’s footsteps, participating in a variety of sports and academic clubs during their time at Romulus High School. Today, many of his sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins still call Romulus home. Currently, Wayne’s primary focus is Boy Scout Troop 872.
“My son, who has autism, inspired me to get involved in Boy Scouts,” Wayne says. “I really wanted him to be part of a group that would allow him to learn new skills and make new friends. Our Boy Scouts Troop was incredibly welcoming to us, and it encouraged us to continue our participation in the program.”
Under Wayne’s leadership, Troop 872 volunteers at many signature Romulus events. Wayne’s favorite Romulus event is the annual Pumpkin Festival, and the Troop makes significant contributions to the weekend-long celebration. They host a pancake breakfast for the community as their main fundraising event. Troop 872 also carries flags in the Parade of Lights, winning the motorized vehicle category multiple times.
Outside of the Pumpkin Festival, Troop 872 assists with canned food drives for Helping Hand and Goodfellows. They also host a pancake breakfast for Relay for Life, place flags on veterans’ graves on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and build and maintain the Romulus Senior Center’s flower boxes.
Wayne’s favorite aspect about Romulus is the people that live here, who inspire him to give back.
“The people of Romulus and friendships I’ve made with them are what push me to give back through my involvement with the Boy Scouts,” Wayne says. “There’s something special about Romulus’ hometown feel, its rich history and community of friendly faces.”