Service to others has always been a pillar of Dana Shifflett's work, stretching back over his 20 years in the Air Force and extending to the work he has taken on since moving to Newton 18 years ago, whether driving buses for local school districts or his current role with the Solid Waste Department helping maintain the county landfill.
"I've been in military or civil service most of my working life, and it's essential. One of the things I missed when I got out of the Air Force was the sense of mission. You take that to any job; you've got a work ethic that you take with you," Shifflett said. "Civil service is like the military. It's not just a job; it is a commitment, and it doesn't end with your work day, your work week or even your term of employment."
For instance, while Shifflett will be retiring from the Solid Waste Department at the end of the month, he has already made a commitment to continue serving by filling a position for Harvey County on the Central Kansas Regional Solid Waste Authority.
As a driver (hauling possible landfill contaminants to Hutchinson, sometimes five times a day) for the Solid Waste Department, and given his experience as a meteorologist with the Air Force, Shifflett has a vested interest in the environment and how waste can effect it. Seeing both local and national efforts being taken on to address the problem, Shifflett admitted he is excited to potentially explore similar options as part of the regional approach, but his commitment to the community goes beyond that.
"This isn't just environment for me. It's about trying to make things better for people in town right now and trying to make the town better for everybody," Shifflett said.
On top of his efforts to tackle the waste problem, Shifflett has also been heavily involved in the ReNewton Bicycle Initiative, which pushed for the bike lanes that now exist on Meridian Road, signs that have been installed on county roads and helped create a master bike plan with the Healthy Harvey Coalition.
During a stint as a special needs school bus driver for USD 373 (admittedly one of his most rewarding jobs), Shiffllett had to attend a mandatory seminar on living in poverty that he noted was eye-opening, showing just how many in Newton are affected — and how reliant they can be on bicycles for transportation. That information steered his involvement with the bicycle initiative, though he was quick to point out the broader appeal of cycling paths — going so far as to plan out routes on his property in rural Newton — and how that fits into the overall community improvement he wants to be a part of.
"What I see is the opportunities we have, things we could do to make life better here, to make Newton more attractive to people," Shifflett said. "It's a great place."
Many opportunities have been presented to Shifflett over the years, whether serving as a Red Cross shelter manager at Salem United Methodist Church following an ice storm in 2005 or work with Caring Hands Humane Society fostering kittens for adoption, and there are plenty more causes with which to get involved.
To this day, a chance meeting with Malcolm Forbes at a McDonalds in New Mexico yielded the best advice Shifflett said he has ever received — "find what turns you on and pursue it" — that he continues to adhere to and is quick to pass on to anyone else looking to help out in the community.
"There's a lot of needs, and not every one of them is going to turn you on, and you don't need to feel guilty about not participating in somebody's charity," Shifflett said. "There's all sorts of opportunities, you just have to look for them and figure out what matters to you."