As a heavy equipment operator for El Paso Water, Truck Driver Laura Chaparro-Casas is turning heads.
It happens so often, Chaparro-Casas is no longer fazed by the double takes she gets while driving her Freightliner dump truck to and from a job site. What she does notice are the honks and waves from other women when she is spotted behind the wheel of her 5-ton truck.
“I had an instance when I was working on the West Side and was delivering a full load of materials,” Chaparro-Casas said. “An elderly lady came out of her house, with her caregiver, just to give me a thumbs up. It was awesome; she did it because she saw me working in an all-male environment.”
Chaparro-Casas is the second woman to join the ranks of Heavy Equipment Operators at EPWater and is excited about the opportunities at the utility that take her out of an office setting. She had previous careers in newspaper layout design and as a bus driver for Sun Metro.
“There was an opportunity at El Paso Water, and I jumped on it,” she said. “A lot of people ask, ‘How can you drive that big truck and be out in the sun, dirt and climate?’ My answer to them: Work is work.”
Chaparro-Casas hopes to raise the profile of women in male-dominated occupations, such as hers. She urges other women not to be afraid and says women are more than capable of flourishing in these positions.
“Nothing can stop us, only our fears,” she said. “I am going to strive for better because I know other women are watching me.”
General Service Worker Espy Avila is watching Chaparro-Casas and has similar career aspirations.
Avila is a new addition to the utility’s Building Maintenance department and represents a new family generation working for EPWater.
Dad Jorge Luis Avila is a Truck Driver for Heavy Equipment Operations and mom Olga Avila is a General Service Worker for Stormwater Management.
Avila has also heard the same concerns about working in a tough occupation and shrugs it off, because she loves the outdoors.
Building Maintenance employees work as landscapers, carpenters and plumbers for the utility.
“Everyone keeps asking me if I am sure I want to do this, and I have never been so sure,” Espy Avila said. “There are opportunities everywhere at El Paso Water, and I have learned a lot about the utility and facilities from working here.”
Avila urges other women to be fearless in taking job opportunities. She already knows what she wants to do next.
“My next step is hopefully going to Heavy Equipment Operations,” Avila said. “I want to do what Laura does.”