GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — It’s National Public Works Week, and local municipalities are using this time to recognize and celebrate public works employees for the integral roles they play in their communities.

The week was originally a public education campaign by the American Public Works Association in 1960. It’s now known as National Public Works Week. Running from May 15 – 21, the week celebrates men and women who provide and maintain infrastructure and services.

“There are a lot of times they are as much of a first responder as a police or fire person is,” said Kevin Heifferon, assistant director of public works for the City of Greenville. “And you know, sometimes they’re the first on the scene and sometimes they’re the last to leave.”

Public works department can include a variety of different subgroups, such as office administrators, a sanitation department, street maintenance division, transit division, building and grounds division and fleet division.

“This year is the first year that we had the mayor signed the proclamation recognizing National Public Works week,” said Adam Waters, Public Works Director for Washington. “We wanted to recognize all our hard work.”

This year’s Public Works Week is even more important for many local governments that are dealing with staff shortages.

“It’s a very challenging atmosphere to hire. We have very devoted and talented people that don’t mind getting sweaty and dirty. And in today’s society, people looking for those kinds of careers, I think it’s a little bit tougher,” said Heifferon.

“We want to show how much we appreciate their hard work and their efforts,” said Waters.

“‘Thank yous’ don’t cost a dime. And it’s nice when we get an email and appreciation for a job well done,” said Heifferon.

Public worsk officials said there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in their departments. They said at times, the public doesn’t see what goes into their day to day responsibilities and just a simple “thank you” goes a long way.