Tuesday, 22 March 2022 09:32

Sidney “Signs” off: Sidney So retires after 41 years with HPW Sign Shop

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HPW General Superintendent Sidney So looks at screens used for printing reflective traffic signs produced in-house at HPW’s Sign Shop. HPW General Superintendent Sidney So looks at screens used for printing reflective traffic signs produced in-house at HPW’s Sign Shop. Photo by Elise Marrion

 

Sidney So is a man of few words. Yet, his 41-year career with the City of Houston says a lot about how one person’s work can leave a legacy.

So, who retired from the city in February after 41 years of service, joined the city in 1981 as a laborer at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, where he learned a lot of skills on the job.

He spent 10 years with IAH before transferring to Houston Public Works as a sign processor. He would later transfer back to IAH, but rejoined HPW in 2004 as a general superintendent, overseeing a team of six at HPW’s Sign Shop located off Interstate 10 and Patterson. 

So said he and his team produce about 20,000 traffic signs per year. The team’s small size is a stark contrast to the thousands of drivers who come across the traffic signs posted along some of Houston’s busiest roadways and residential street intersections.

So said of all the signs, stop signs are the most essential.

Valentine Martinez agrees.

“Stop signs are a big priority, because when one gets reported down, they have a certain window… that they have to replace it…because there could be a wreck,” explained Martinez, a section chief for HPW’s transportation and drainage operations markings section.

Along with stop signs, the team fabricate all kinds of traffic signs including speed limit signs, yield signs, street name signs and more. 

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HPW Sign Shop stockpiles a variety traffic signs to keep up with daily requests.

Photo by Elise Marrion

“We keep about 50 to 200 signs in stock,” So said.

So said his team replenished their stock of traffic signs depending on the number of requests they get for specific signs, which can vary throughout the year.

Along with your everyday traffic signs, So said he and team also received requests for special signs, which can take longer to produce.

“If we have some special sign request…I use the DesignCAD to design the sign,” So said.

So said he then hands the design over to his crew to layout and fabricate.

As with many industries, Martinez said the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the shipment of materials leaving. So and his team to focus more recently on internal city requests rather than external special requests.

His decades of experience in sign processing helped him manage the shop’s day-to-day operations that supplied the city’s sign needs. It’s a field of work often overlooked, but always needed to keep up with the continuous growth of the city and its roadways.

“Sidney ran the shop like a well-oiled machine and would listen to us always and knew his crew would get the job done,” said Douglas Andreano, an HPW equipment worker who worked with So for 17 years.

Jaden McKinnis, also an HPW equipment worker, said So had a good work ethic.

“He was always in a good mood, accommodating to a fault and never really said no,” McKinnis said. 

So said he will miss his team and days at the sign shop, but that he’s enjoying his free time and plans to visit his daughter who lives in Portland and his sister who lives in France. 

He offered this advice to those looking to achieve a lifelong career with the city.

“Good attendance and be ready and willing to work hard,” So said.