During his work as Kent city water-meter reader, Mark Maughan crosses the paths of pit bulls, Labradors and Doberman pinchers.
But only one dog has ever bitten him.
“The worst one, and it bit me twice, was a Chihuahua,” Maughan said Tuesday, sitting in at the Centennial Building in downtown Kent. “It bit me in the shoe and again in the back of my shoe on the way out. I think it had little-dog syndrome.”
Usually, dog biscuits do the trick for Maughan while he walks the streets of Kent to read residential water meters.
“They know the truck and you,” said Maughan, in his fourth year as a meter reader. “They bark at you, but it’s not an angry bark. It’s a ‘where’s my biscuit’ bark.”
Maughan is one of three full-time and one part-time meter readers for the city financial services department that bills customers. They read more than 8,000 meters on the east side of the city, 7,000 on the west side and 1,000 commercial meters.
Even though Maughan runs into plenty of dogs, he enjoys the opportunity to work outside.
“I like the exercise,” he noted. “And you go out by yourself, so you have a lot of time to think and ponder. It’s kind of relaxing. This morning, it was cool, sunny and quiet.”
After more than 20 years as a private landscaper, Maughan, 47, decided about four years ago to look for a job with better benefits and a retirement package. He started with the city as a maintenance worker at the Riverbend Golf Course. After a few months at the golf course, he started as a part-time meter reader. He combined the meter-reader job with part-time work in the city’s mailroom for about a year before he became a full-time meter reader in 2005.
Maughan uses a hand-held device to punch in numbers as he reads a meter. If the meter reads too high, too low or stays the same, he hits a certain key to pinpoint that meter for a follow-up check. After an audit of the meters back in the office, Maughan will return to any that might need to be replaced.
“He’s very thorough,” said Lezlie Ellis, the lead meter reader and Maughan’s supervisor. “He’s very dedicated. We’re lucky to have him on staff.”
In addition to reading meters, Maughan also cleans dirt out of the meter boxes or trims shrubs that might block the box.
“Sometimes, moles get in there,” Maughan said.
Because the city truck Maughan drives says “Customer Service” on the side, he will get requests from residents for other services. He’s even used jumper cables to start vehicles.
Outside of work, Maughan does private landscaping jobs on the weekends. He lives in Auburn with his wife, Caroline. They have been married for 20 years and have two children, Katie, 19, and Kelly, 17. Katie played soccer at Auburn High and Kelly plays football and wrestles at Auburn, where he will be a junior in the fall. Kelly placed sixth at 119 pounds at the Class 3A state high school wrestling tournament in February at the Tacoma Dome.
Maughan grew up in Auburn and graduated in 1980 from Auburn High, where he wrestled and played football. He coached junior wrestling for seven years. He spends Friday nights in the fall with his wife at Auburn football games selling concessions to help raise money for the high-school wrestling team. Those funds helped pay for a wrestling trip to Reno last year.
Although Maughan shaved his moustache a few weeks ago, people have told him he looks like actor Charles Bronson.
“A young Charles Bronson,” Maughan said.
Ellis agreed that Maughan resembles Bronson. Ellis also knew about the Chihuahua story.
“I had shut off the meter at the same home and gave the Chihuahua a biscuit and it went away,” Ellis said. “He must not have had a biscuit.”