Retiree Profile: Michelle Durham

Michelle Durham is a proud Louisville Water retiree. For 24 years, she worked in several positions in water distribution and water treatment.

“I worked at Louisville Water from 1993 to 2017 and I started out as a utility worker. Throughout those 24 years, I’ve done everything from flagging traffic to reading, testing, and exchanging water meters, to being a plumber helper and emergency turner,” Durham said.

“My early years with the company were spent working at Allmond Avenue (Distribution Center), then I moved over to working at the Crescent Hill Treatment Plant where I worked as a chemical attendant in operations maintenance. I also worked at B.E. Payne as a plant operator.”

Durham said she has seen lots of changes over the years. She even remembers the birth of the Louisville Pure Tap™ brand.

“Getting to know people like (Vice President) Kelley Dearing Smith on the corporate side has given me a lot of opportunities to work with the Pure Tap team.  I can remember back to 1998 when (former Communications Manager) Barbara Crow created the Pure Tap logo,” she said. “We take for granted how valuable water is. Anything I can do to help show the community how vital our water is and that we need it to survive is important to me.”

Since retiring, Durham often works with the Pure Tap team at events in the community.

“The most enjoyable part of my career has been getting involved in community service events,” she said. “It gives me a chance to still see some of my coworkers.  I miss them the most. You spend a third of your day with these people and they become like an extended part of your family.”

Teamwork and family are two values that Durham has carried with her throughout her career.

“I’ve played team sports since I was nine years old. I thrive working on a team because I know you can’t do it alone. Some people pride themselves on doing (a job) alone, but we all need help sometimes,” she said.

“I was a part of the Women’s Championship Tapping team. We started in 1997 and we became the top team in the nation. We had a great time representing the Water Company,” she said. “I want to give a shoutout to team members Jayne Clark, Kate Farrow, Cecelia Saurer, Angie Schaflein, Toni Estes, and Minnette Harlan.”

“Even though I’m retired, I have a group of guys that I literally call my brothers and that would be Lee Lorimor and Steve Nalley,” she said. “And I can’t forget my best friend in the world, Bobbi Elmore. We met on the job and are still friends to this day.”

Durham says she is proud and grateful to be a Louisville Water Company retiree, but she’s also a proud member of the LGBTQ community.

“My wife and I have been married for almost two years. We actually got married during the height of COVID,” she said. “I have flags that I put out in my yard to celebrate Pride Month.  I used to be unsure about putting rainbow flags in my yard because there was a little fear of what people would say, but if we let fear control what we do, we’re not really living in the moment. I’m blessed to live in a neighborhood where I don’t have to worry about that. People are very warm, welcoming, and embracing.”

Durham said things were a lot different when she started her career in the early 90s.

“When I came to the Water Company in 1993, that aspect of my life was hidden because I wanted to get hired and I wanted to be accepted,” she said.

As time went on, Durham said she felt more comfortable being herself at work.

“Those first couple of years, I kept it quiet. But as time passed, people got to know me for who I am. I’ve been blessed and gifted with support from my peers and managers. The way I see it, my orientation is only 10 percent of who I am, but that’s the 10 percent that people focus on,” she said.

Having the support of her coworkers and managers meant a lot, Durham remembered.

“That’s probably a big part of what kept me at the Water Company. I never felt shunned. I always felt at home.”

Durham hopes more people that identify as LGBTQ will feel comfortable being ‘out’ at work.

“The more we talk about it, the more people like myself and allies will feel more secure in who they are, to be seen and heard,” she said. “I try to see every person as a human being first and all the other things are secondary.”