Every Monday, The Times takes a look at someone who keeps local government running smoothly.
Ricky Walden is the chief mechanic for some of Hall County’s most important vehicles.
Walden, 47, has been working on cars since he was a teenager at Lumpkin County High School. Since 2004, he has serviced a fleet of emergency vehicles that get more wear and tear than just about anything else on four wheels outside of race tracks or drag strips.
“They’re used hard,” Walden said of the 60-plus fire engines, ladder trucks, pumper trucks and ambulances he and four other mechanics are in charge of keeping on the road.
Walden has been fleet maintenance supervisor for Hall County Fire and Emergency Services for the past two years and worked in the shop for five. It is a different responsibility from his days as a privately employed mechanic at a Chevrolet dealership and his own Quick Lube shop.
“They’re emergency vehicles, and they have to be ready to roll,” Walden said. “When something comes up, you can’t just order a part and get it in next week. We have to get it in and get it back in service.”
The risk of a fire truck or ambulance breaking down on an emergency call is enough to keep Walden “all the time thinking,” of what could happen if his department doesn’t do its job.
“I know if certain things happen, it could be a danger,” he said.
Walden said the internal mechanics of massive diesel-powered fire apparatus are in most ways the same as other trucks — the moving parts are just a whole lot bigger. Whereas most passenger cars hold around seven quarts of oil, a fire engine takes 30. Tires on a ladder truck can run $400 a piece. Large fire vehicles cost taxpayers between $500,000 and $750,000, so they have to last.
“We do a lot of preventative maintenance,” Walden said. “In the spring and fall, we get every truck in here and go over them from one end to the other. It is what keeps us out of trouble.”
Walden lives in Dahlonega with his wife, Judy, and has two sons, Chase, 18, and Austin, 21.
He said he enjoys the working environment in his shop, which looks, sounds and smells like most other mechanic’s garages, except for the giant-sized parts.
“I really enjoy it,” he said. “It is something different every day. And the people here are great. It is like family.