City Council work can be a lot like laying a hardwood floor. If you don”t get it right the first time, you could have a timely, expensive mess on your hands trying to set things right.
Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens knows about both. The rookie councilman has installed flooring for the past 16 years and uses the long hours — up to 60 hours a week — to escape from the pressure of his new gig.
“If you like what you”re doing, you can work around the stress. As a matter of fact, my working is what relieves my stress,” said Mickens. “While I”m here I”m not focusing on the council. When I leave here and go to the council, I deal with that.”
Fortunately for Mickens, he likes to stay busy. His responsibilities to the city generally consume 25 or more hours each week.
“Between this and the council, I don”t have hardly no free time. I thought council would just be: meet two times a month and that”s it. But I”m finding out it”s not like that. I”ve been getting calls all day today. ”Councilman Mickens we need you to come by this street. You need to come by Summerhaven. You need to come by Peach Street,”” he said.
But, laying hardwood flooring in a house on Drake Hill Circle, Mickens seems relaxed. He lets his young assistants, Chioke Mickens, 27, his nephew, and Jermaine Shanklin, 22, handle busy work like sawing a slot beneath door jambs and floor boards to fit hardwood planks underneath.
He explains how the boards closest to the wall must be laid straight or the look of the entire room will be skewed.
Mickens keeps a close eye on the preparations, pointing out missed spots and giving instructions. He kneels down himself to nail guide strips into the home”s concrete floor. Later he”ll grab a trowel and help spread glue across the floor in preparation for the wood planks.
He began laying carpet with his brother in 1993 and soon began to formulate a plan.
“It just donned on me. I can do this and make a profit off of it,” said Mickens.
For Mickens, the most attractive aspects of his business are the freedom of working for himself and the ability to make his own hours. But that doesn”t mean he”s taking it easy.
As a contractor for Lowe”s, Mickens is often called for jobs because he has the experience and training to do several different jobs, such as ceramic, tile, carpet, laminate or hardwood.
“If you”re more versatile (you get more work). No matter what job comes up, I can do it,” said Mickens.
Of course, it hasn”t always been that way.
“I had to go to classes (to be licensed). But mostly my experience was hands-on, messing some jobs up. But it paid off in the long run,” he said.
Despite the long hours of two jobs, Mickens hopes to resume a third eventually.
In 2001 he says he received the call to become a pastor and spent time at Second James Creek Church in Brooksville and Mt. Pisgah Church in West Point.
Mickens took a break from preaching to lead his campaign for City Council, but he”s eyeing a return to his first love.
“I see where the Lord was dealing with me because I ran for City Council and I won. If I had been pastoring, I wouldn”t have had time to put into the campaign, knocking on every door to win the election. But I definitely see myself coming back to pastoring. That”s my No. 1 priority,” said Mickens.
He”s not sure when or where he”ll make his return to the pulpit, but Mickens has visited several churches recently. It will be a little longer before he can work all three jobs into his schedule, but he looks forward to the challenge.
“It”s no words can describe how I miss it. You would have to be a pastor to understand the thrill of getting up and preaching God”s word and people feeding off your every word. There”s nothing like that,” he said.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.