We first met Mervin (Merv) Brewer when he helped the Salt Lake City School District earn the Green Cleaning Award Honorable Mention in 2011 when he was assistant custodial supervisor. He went on to become an integral part of the Healthy Green Schools & Colleges Program as one of our founding steering committee members, bringing his passion for leadership and green cleaning to the role.
At the Salt Lake City School District (SLSD), Merv helped to supervise the district’s internationally recognized Integrated Pest Management program and holds a current state-certified Pesticide Applicator license. Mervin is a past President of the Utah School Custodial Managers Association, which is a coalition of custodial supervisors throughout the state of Utah collaborating and refining healthy cleaning methods in public schools. Mervin will continue to serve on the Healthy Green schools & Colleges Steering Committee in retirement.
After a career of 42 years in the custodial department at SLSD, Merv retired this summer. We wish him the best in his golden years of retirement, and congratulations on a wonderful career!
“When it came time to retire, I just knew it was the right time,” says Merv. “I can’t put it any other way than that. I had spent the past five years preparing the department so that I could retire knowing they were set up for success, and with my obligations at home, it was the right time to make this transition.”
When Merv refers to his obligations at home, he is referring to a lot. He has 13 children and 28 grandchildren! In his new role as busy retired grandfather, Merv spends a good portion of his newfound free time helping with preschool dropoff and providing child care.
“Now I have the freedom to spend every day enjoying these little kids while they are still little,” says Merv. “I don’t want to miss a minute.”
And yet, Merv still finds time for his passion for green cleaning in schools, maintaining his role on the Healthy Green Schools and Colleges’ Steering Committee, serving as the Utah School Custodial Managers Association National Liaison Chairman and launching a new YouTube channel devoted to green cleaning in schools.
Merv’s Green School Guy YouTube channel focuses on topics like how to get started in green cleaning, what green cleaning is, how to help nurture and lead custodians, understanding the importance of green cleaning and dispelling green cleaning myths.
Merv started working as a part-time sweeper at SLSD when he was just 14, vacuuming and dumping trash in an elementary school after school. He loved the job so much, he made a career out of it, eventually becoming the head custodian at the high school he graduated from, and then assistant custodial supervisor for the entire district. Today, Merv’s youngest daughter continues in the family legacy as a part-time sweeper, and his son Kyle started as a part-time sweeper as well. Today, Kyle works full time for the grounds department at SLSD.
“In fact, most of my children were part-time sweepers when they were high school students,” Merv recalls. “It’s a family thing.”
When Merv and his team implemented an innovative program to use American Rescue Funds to pay for overtime for district workers to perform cleaning tasks at night to help make up for labor shortages, Kyle signed up. After mowing lawns and performing grounds work all day in the Utah heat, Kyle is thankful to be indoors and cool while vacuuming as part of this program.
“I’m very proud of my son, who has been working really hard to help fill in the gaps we’ve suffered due to labor shortages, but also of the entire family and team at SLSD,” says Merv.
As Merv looks back at his career, one memory in particular sticks out.
“As an elementary head custodian, I was known only as Merv to the students and staff,” he recalls. “They didn’t call me Mr. Brewer, we had that kind of close and friendly relationship.”
One day a student fell and got cut on the playground. As the child was rushed to the office, Merv ran over and told the staff there not to use latex gloves because the child was allergic to latex.
“I still remember after the incident was safely handled, the staff in the office asked me how I knew that key piece of information. I told them that I knew all the kids in the building because as head custodian, I have charge over them. I still believe that to this day, being a custodian is about that.”
We are thankful to have Merv engaged in our work to protect the health of students and congratulate him on an amazing career.