Jeff Jardine

City trimmer saws through the glass ceiling

Susan Bake trims a tree on Andalusia Way in Modesto, Calif. on Monday, June 8, 2015. A week earlier, she became the first woman tree trimmer ever employed by the City of Modesto.
Susan Bake trims a tree on Andalusia Way in Modesto, Calif. on Monday, June 8, 2015. A week earlier, she became the first woman tree trimmer ever employed by the City of Modesto.

From the emails, voice mails and other sources:

BRANCHING OUT – Many women still find that the so-called glass ceiling in American workplaces is tough to crack.

Susan Baker cut through it with a chain saw. A week ago, Baker reported for work as the city of Modesto’s first woman tree trimmer – as in, first one ever. Think of her as Modesto’s own Paul – make that Paula – Bunyan, sans the Blue Ox.

She worked for the past few years as a part-time crew member, hauling brush on the ground as the trimmers – always men – cut away from above. But with encouragement from city Solid Waste Manager Jocelyn Reed and Forestry Supervisor Mike Hoesch, Baker received her certification to go up into the cherry pickers and handle the chain saw. It simply took longer than expected because she suffered a setback.

“I broke my foot pulling brush and had to go into the office,” Baker, 43, said. So after nine months of healing and rehab, she returned to the ground. “I’ve always wanted this. But when that happened, I thought that might have done it for me.”

Not a chance. Baker really wanted it to happen. Reed wanted to break ground. So did Hoesch. So now she is officially a full-time trimmer, switching off with crew leader Jose Rodriguez in the treetops. Both are studying to become full-fledged arborists, meaning having a complete knowledge of tree types and respective needs along with soil types and other vital facts.

“I take the morning until the break, then she goes up until lunchtime,” Rodriquez said. “The guys like working with her. She has the will to learn. She’s getting the hand of how to drive the aerial (bucket). That is half the battle.”

The other half ... .

THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE ... – We’re always proud of our alumni. Congratulations to former Bee reporter Christina Salerno. She is a producer and editor at TVW, a public affairs station that would be the state of Washington’s equivalent of C-SPAN. Saturday night, she picked up an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Northwest Region for her work on a documentary titled “Flight plan: Charting A Course for Drones in Washington.” It investigated the impact of drones and privacy issues.

Her TVW team won against competition that included Seattle’s public broadcasting station and local network affiliates in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.

Salerno graduated from Beyer High School in 2000 and from Sacramento State in 2005. She hired on at The Bee in 2005, covering the police beat and general assignment before moving to business, where she produced award-winning stories on the closure of the Hershey plant in Oakdale. She then went on to get her master’s degree in documentary film and digital media from UC Berkeley before moving to Washington. Her husband, Adam Ashton, also is a former Bee reporter and editor who has won awards for his coverage of the military at McClatchy’s Tacoma News Tribune newspaper.

Also, Univision reporter Alejandra Quezada and cameraman Carlos Rodriguez won Emmys in the Spanish-language category Saturday night in the Northern California Region event in San Francisco.

THINK SUCCESS – Gail Wilson wants you to think about succeeding. So her Successful Thinkers Network is bringing in motivational speakers to explain how to do just that. The group meets at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday in, appropriately, the meeting room of the Round Table Pizza at 3848 McHenry Ave. in Modesto. The speaker will be interpersonaldynamics coach Adanech (Addie) Begashaw.

The June 16 meeting features fulfillment coach and writer Maura Torkildson, who will talk about helping people use their inner experiences as resources for action.

The events are free and open to the public. Contact Wilson at (209) 712-8997 or visit for more information.

IN NEED OF DOCENTS – Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown is looking for a few more good docents. Training sessions are scheduled for Saturday and June 20, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day. Contact the museum at (209) 984-3953. Meanwhile, the lack of available volunteer docents has forced the Mariposa Museum & History Center to alter its hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The museum, at 5119 Jesse St., is open seven days a week. Because of the shortage of docents, it will now be open from noon to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, maintaining the normal 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. hours the rest of the week.

Anyone interested in becoming a docent can contact Tom Phillips at (209) 966-2924.