There have been a lot of famous duos like Abbott and Costello, Starsky and Hutch and Batman and Robin. The District has its own famous duo and they’re still working side by side after more than 20 years.
Sonny Clay and Ray “Bubba” Garcia were hired eight months apart in 1987 and 1988 and have been working together ever since. In fact, they are the only team in the Land Resources Department. The two are paired up because the type of work they do can be dangerous. The two mainly cut down large trees that are at risk of falling down or they remove trees that have already fallen.
“They have to be removed for the safety of our visitors,” said Garcia, a certified arborist.
But cutting trees isn’t their only job.
“We do everything from fixing toilets to controlled burns,” said Clay, who told how they were asked to rebuild a urinal at the Lake Panasoffkee property.
The two also assist with controlled burns, disk land for restoration projects or lend a hand wherever it’s needed. The two have been certified by the Department of Forestry’s Ranger School, and Clay is a certified airboat operator.
“This is the most varied job you can imagine and that’s what keeps it fun,” said Garcia.
Clay and Garcia, along with Gary Flood who now works in the Operations Department, built all the original fenced walk-thrus and parking areas at the District’s public lands. Clay and Garcia also built most of the new fencing and sign infrastructure you see now.
“Kevin Love always has us building fences in the summertime because we’re busy with controlled burns in the winter,” joked Clay. “Don’t ever say you’re bored around Kevin, he’ll find something for you to do.”
The pair have worked for Kevin Love, the District’s land management manager, since they started and say they couldn’t ask for a better boss. In addition to working for Love, they both talked about the great people they work with today and the people in the past that had an impact on their lives.
“A lot of what we learned about land management was from Kerry Tully,” said Clay. “He was truly like a dad to us.”
And while their manager has stayed the same, a lot has changed since their first days at the District.
“People think the woods are wet now after a couple months of rain, but it’s nothing like it used to be,” said Clay. Garcia agreed saying, “Back when we started, if your feet weren’t wet in the summertime, you weren’t doing your job.”
The two have also seen the Brooksville Headquarters grow and change. They were here before Building 4 was built. When it was finished, they went to check out the new building and walked around on each floor. However, back then they didn’t have District shirts or hats so someone who didn’t know them called security.
“When we got off the elevator, the security guard just laughed when he saw us,” said Clay.
The two have also seen some wild things in the woods.
“One time we saw a deer run across the road, followed by what looked like a big cat, followed by a coyote,” said Clay. “We looked at each other and said, ‘did you see that?’ ”
Both men have been at the District for more than 20 years, and they say they plan to continue working together until retirement.
“It’s hard to leave a job you like,” said Garcia.