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June 24, 2010

Media Contact: Hannah Buchanan
Public Affairs Specialist
News and Information
The University of Texas at Tyler

Faces Behind the Scenes: Building Maintenance - Plumber

Editor’s Note: Many staff work behind the scenes at The University of Texas at Tyler. In this four-part summer feature series, “Faces Behind the Scenes,” we will highlight some of the “unsung heroes” within the UT Tyler Physical Plant.


Above: Jimmy Spanko serves as the campus plumber. Middle: Spanko works on a bathroom sink on campus. Below: Some of the UT Tyler Physical Plant staff members gather for a photo.

The University of Texas at Tyler Physical Plant’s building maintenance technicians handle all building maintenance including electrical work, plumbing, carpentry, painting and vehicle servicing.

Jimmy Spanko is another “jack-of-all-trades” at the university. He’s worked here for two years.

“As staff plumber, my job ranges from unstopping toilets, to repairing water leaks, to whatever is needed on campus,” said Spanko, who has been in the plumbing industry for 15 years.

With his responsibilities, he also works closely with the university’s environmental health and safety department.

“The State of Texas licensed me to test and repair backflow assemblies, and my next big project will be to test backflow assemblies on fire lines,” Spanko said. “I’m responsible for the water of course. If we have a major water leak, and if it’s a very big line, I probably won’t be able to fix it myself so it’s my job to find out how much it’s going to cost and get a contractor out here to fix it.”

Spanko working on a bathroom sink

He said the university last year used nearly 178 million gallons of water. Being responsible for so much is no pressure for him.

Spanko works with little supervision, but that’s just one of the many reasons he enjoys his “dream job.”

“It’s truly awesome,” he said about working at UT Tyler. “I love this place. The people are so friendly out here. The vast array of what I can get into every day – it’s unbelievable. I really love it. The campus is beautiful, too. I enjoy the challenges that are here.”

One previous challenge of which he is extremely proud involved repairing the observation fountain on the Braithwaite Hall end of the UT Tyler R. Don Cowan Fine and Performing Arts Center.

“There was no fill valve in the observation fountain. Two engineers looked at it and couldn’t figure a way to put that in there. I figured it out,” he said grinning. “I wanted to get that fixed within the first year of being out here, and I got it done, just under the deadline.” 

Spanko thanks his previous employer for giving him the learning curve he needed to excel at UT Tyler.

“I feel a debt of gratitude to Caldwell Zoo,” Spanko said, having worked there for five years before coming to the university. “There are great guys out there. I learned a lot from them, and I have a lot of respect for them. If I hadn’t worked there, I probably would not be near as effective at my job here.”

One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 90 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of more than 6,000 high-ability students at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.

Physical Plant staff members pose for a photo

Faces Behind the Scenes Feature Series:


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