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SDOT Women Paving the Way | Meet Mildred Slade

March is Women’s History Month. We’re sharing stories of some of SDOT’s talented, brave, strong, and determined employees who are making our city safer, opening paths for others, and fighting for a more equitable city.

These women are building bridges and paving the way – both literally and for others in the workforce. 

Mildred (right) with coworkers enjoying food she made for a holiday party. 

Meet Mildred Slade 

For 35+ years, Mildred has shared her talent, dedication, positivity, and food with SDOT and the city. If you know Mildred, then you’ve likely tasted some of her delicious home-cooked meals that she loves to share with her crewmates.

We talked to Mildred about her work at SDOT, family, food, her motivation, and more. Enjoy!

It’s so great to chat with you, Mildred! To start, can you tell me about what you do at SDOT as the Senior Warehouser? 

As the senior warehouser, I make sure our concrete, paving, and street maintenance crews have all the safety gear and equipment they need to do their jobs well. From safety vests and hard hats, to snow shovels and face masks, I’m the one who makes sure that it’s all stocked and ready for when they need them.  

Prior to working in the warehouse, I spent two decades working nightshift as an emergency laborer working on the team that is now known as our incident response team. Back then, I was one of the first people to show up to the scene when an incident occurred – be it a crash, fallen tree, or a spill. Our job was to keep traffic moving by putting up temporary detour signs and clear the streets and sidewalks. This involved anything from moving broken down vehicles, removing debris left from a crash, and using a chain saw to cut fallen trees that were blocking the road.

What do you love about your job? 

I’m a very valuable person here at SDOT who helps keep everything moving. You may not see me, because I spend my days in the warehouse, but you see the work I do. The crews can’t do their work without safety gear and equipment, and it’s my job to make sure they have what they need.  

One thing I love about my job is that I get to interact with all the crew members. I have a lot of people come to me for advice and wonder what’s kept me motivated for over 30+ years working here. My advice for them is to focus on why you’re here.   

Mildred (second from left) with SDOT coworkers

What was a defining moment for you in your career? 

One defining moment for me was when I switched to working the nightshift for the incident response team. I had only been at SDOT for six months, and I was a mom of six – including three under three-years-old. Childcare costs were high, so I decided to switch to the graveyard shift. 

One of my first nights, I remember a guy saying, “Oh here comes another one, let’s see how long she lasts.” I just smiled to myself and thought, “you don’t know my story”.

Coming to SDOT was like getting a ticket to the chocolate factory, because when you get a job with the City, you’ve got it made. I was excited and I wasn’t going to let these guys who thought “women aren’t supposed to be here” stop me. I felt like I had to prove my strength and my abilities, so that’s just what I did. I proved to myself, and to them, that I’m here for the long-haul, and I’ve been at SDOT now for more than 35 years!  

How do you think identifying as a women has impacted your career? 

I continually had to prove that I’m just as good as the guys are – if he can do it, then I can do it, or I can even do it better.  

I remember one time early on, I saw a guy in a higher position make more money than me, and I thought, “you know what? I can do what he can do!” And that motivated me to work harder and prove that I could. And it paid off.  

I’ve been a tomboy my entire life. It’s easy for me to go cut up a tree or dig a ditch because that’s the type of woman I am. I think that impacted the way I do things, and I do a good job. 

Mildred and her family.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?  

Don’t give up and remember why you’re here.  

For me, my family is my motivation. I work so I can take care of them.  

I may not have a lot of degrees, but I had a desire to learn and push myself. When asked, “Do you want to drive the truck? Do you want to learn how to do something new?”, I always stepped up and said yes.  

I never lost focus of why I was here – my family first. At times, I had to remind myself, “feeding into your negativity isn’t going to feed my family. Me being unhappy isn’t going to feed my family.” And giving up wasn’t in my vocabulary because I had kids looking up to me – four sons and four daughters.

Speaking of family, it was my dad who encouraged me to get a job with the City. He worked at the Seattle Center for over 30 years. His advice to me was that I should work hard and do a good job because it’s pleasing to me. Not for someone else, but to take pride in my work and do it well for me.  

Who is a woman you admire professionally or personally, and why?  

Maya Angelou  is my favorite – because I rise. Through all the things I’ve been through, the good or bad, still I rise. Every time I hear those words, they touch my soul. 

Mildred (second from left) with SDOT coworkers.

Throughout this month we will be sharing stories of other women at SDOT who inspire us. Meet Karen Sweeney and Kristen Ramirez whom we interviewed last week.