Practically anyone who has had guests coming over has been in the position of racing around doing some quick cleaning and tidying up to make their place presentable before their friends or relatives arrive. Imagine having to prepare for several hundred such guests, including some who speak another language. That’s what Joe Dilts’ job is like. Dilts, a building service foreman with 19 years’ service with the university, and his staff of seven are responsible for cleaning the approximately 750 apartments at Orchard Downs.
Tell me about your job.
We clean apartments at Orchard Downs as tenants move out and get the apartments ready for incoming residents. We also take care of some of the other public areas. The apartments are all one- or two-bedroom units. We’re hoping to see some renovations in the future that provide more bedrooms.
We work together with the maintenance workers and with the Family and Graduate Housing Office to make sure we get people into their apartments on time and the places are clean and ready to move into.
We’ve also got 17 guest housing apartments that are fully furnished. We provide just about everything but the food. We usually try to keep those readily available for when somebody needs one. Departments around campus rent them out for people that they’re bringing in, sometimes for a week, sometimes for a month or two, whatever their schedule may be.
A lot of times those apartments turn around pretty quick. Today, for instance, we have somebody moving out this morning, and the next person is already here and wanting to move into it.
What kinds of skills does a person in your job need?
Well, I had 10 years’ cleaning experience as a building service worker before I moved into supervision. If you know how to clean your house, you have a basic understanding of what we do. We’ve got a lot of floor work as well as applicances and bathrooms to clean.
What’s the most challenging part about what you do?
The beginning of the semester. A lot of our leases expire July 31, so that’s a pretty busy time for us because we have a large number of apartments to get ready.
We also run into a lot of residents whose primary language is not English, and that can be challenging. With the help of the community aides and the Family and Graduate Housing staff, we manage to communicate in some way or another to get the problem solved. The community aides are residents who are bilingual or multilingual and who are assigned to different ‘neighborhoods’ to assist with communicating with other residents who don’t speak English.
What’s your favorite part of what you do?
I get to meet a lot of interesting people. We’ve got a very diverse, multicultural group of residents. I supervise seven people and work with a lot of good people who know their jobs and do a good job. Everybody does their work and gets it done on time or even ahead of schedule.
What kinds of things do you like to do away from work?
People ask me what my hobbies are, and I say, ‘I’m a homeowner. That’s my hobby.’ When you own your own house, you’ve got plenty to keep you occupied in your spare time.
My wife and I also like to ride motorcycles. I’ve got a Harley-Davidson and a Yamaha schooter, which we bought this summer. We’ve taken a few short trips so far.
I am finishing an associate’s degree in business management at Parkland College. I should have that completed by the end of the spring semester. By that time, I will have been working on it for four years. I’m going to be taking Spanish this spring. I hope to start working on some of my language skills after that so I can better communicate with some of our residents.