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City Sanitary: A long but happy haul of 46 years



by: ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - Joe Boitano is proud of his forty-six year career as Woodstock's garbage man - a business that he inherited from his father and shared with his wife Sue, who did the books and answered phones. Now retiring, he chose the new owners, who will carry on the same tradition of community service.When your family has owned a business for over seventy-five years, you have roots in that business, and you feel emotionally attached.

So it is with Joe Boitano, who in 1968 bought the City Sanitary Garbage Company from his father and uncle, the founders of the business in the 1930’s. In December of last year, Joe announced that he and his wife Sue were retiring, and selling the company after nearly half a century in business serving the Woodstock neighborhood and surrounding area.

“I have to say it wasn’t easy emotionally. I had some agony over taking this step. Who to sell it to? What is best for us? What is best for the employees and for the customers?”

The Boitanos ultimately decided to sell the company to Kahut Waste Services, also a local family-owned garbage business, whose owner Joe has known since 1967. Kahut will keep all of the City Sanitary drivers and its office person, and will also retain the name “City Sanitary”.

Cory Hansen, sales representative for the new ownership, was present at the recent Woodstock Community Business Association (WCBA) annual meeting at Reed College, and volunteered to join the WCBA Board.

For City Sanitary, community involvement is part of the established tradition of going beyond just “customer service”. Over the years City Sanitary volunteered to empty the public garbage cans along Woodstock Boulevard at no cost, and donated dumpsters for past big events, such as the Woodstock Festival parade and the Picnic in Woodstock Park.

In the late 1990’s the company helped with a neighborhood yard debris pickup in the parking lot of Our Lady of Sorrows Church, and in 2002 City Sanitary donated the use of three trucks for a neighborhood-wide bulky-waste curbside pickup.

Over the past forty-six years, though, some things have certainly changed, remarks Joe. In the day when he wrote out each bill by hand, he could visualize each house and customer he was billing. And, before cans had to be put out on the street on garbage day, as they are now, the garbage hauler would instead go to the back door or into the garage of a house to get the can.

“That way, you saw people, and got to know them,” recalls Joe.

That was the case with a customer whose wife many years ago was one of the first people to get a heart transplant. When, one day, Joe read in the paper that she had passed away, he saw the widower at his house on pick-up day and said how sorry he was. The customer expressed his appreciation for the sympathy: “Joe, we’ve never thought of you as the garbage man. We’ve always thought of you as a friend.”

“That meant a lot to me,” says Joe, who thrived on the closeness he felt with customers.

Looking forward to a retirement that, for him and Sue, will be filled with grandchildren, gardening, camping and “whatever the days brings”, Joe shares with THE BEE one last thought.

“Once I read in the newspaper about a bike repair guy who said that after many years, he was no longer in the bike repair business, but he would always consider himself a bike repairman.

“That’s the way it is with me. It’s in my blood. I’m no longer hauling garbage, but I’ll always consider myself a garbage hauler.”