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Style · July 20, 2017

Faces of Fauquier: Work, family, church inspire him

Photo/Don Del Rosso
“I love working with people,” John Utz says. “We do something different every day, basically.”
If I had a choice, I’d like to six-lane Route 29 from Gainesville to Charlottesville, put some kind of metro in the center of it for commuters. That would be a big picture for me.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The Fauquier County General Services Department senior crew chief can’t wait to get to work.

“I love it,” says Sumerduck resident John Utz, 45. “I love working with people. We do something different every day, basically.”

As crew chief, Mr. Utz supervises inmates through the Fauquier County Adult Detention Center’s community service work program.

The inmates’ duties include landscaping and maintaining county property — cleaning floors and carpets, hanging signs and pictures, furniture moving, removing snow and some painting.

For sure, variety has its benefits, says Mr. Utz, who labors side-by-side with inmates.

But, after about 11 years on the job, he prefers working the county’s flowerbeds.

“That’s my love, as far as my job. I have a pretty good green thumb.”

Before joining county government in 2006, Mr. Utz worked for a year as a general contractor.

Before that, he worked 17 years as the concessions’ and property maintenance manager for Hugo’s Skateway on James Madison Highway near Bealeton until the Stribling family sold it in 2005.

“There was a lot going on there,” recalls Mr. Utz, an avid skater. “We were probably skating an average of 600 to 800 people a night. And that was after the busses stopped. The owner — Mr. (Hugo) Stribling — he had busses and picked up kids and brought them there. Of course, it was the only thing in the county at the time.”

The place never lacked for excitement.

“Skating was a risky business,” Mr. Utz says. “There were a lot of injuries. Most were broken arms and broken legs.”

But one skater got permanently paralyzed and another died as a result of rink accidents.

“There was a paralization, where somebody broke their back doing something they shouldn’t have done. It was stupid mistake done by this kid.

“He was doing the limbo and went down to do the splits. He was a professional gymnast . . . and he ripped his back out and he was paralyzed.”

Another person, with pre-existing “medical complications,” died several days after a collision with another skater, Mr. Utz says.

“That was a pretty tough case.”

Besides skating, Mr. Utz counts stamp collecting and fishing among his favorite things to do, though nowadays work, family and church activities have priority over hobbies — all of which seems to suit him fine.

• Age
45

• Home 
Sumerduck.

• Work
Senior crew chief, Fauquier County General Services Department, 2006-present; independent general contractor, 2005; Hugo’s Skateway, property maintenance manager, 1992-2005; Hugo’s Skateway, concessions’ manager, 1988-92.

• Why do you do the job?
I love it. I love working with people. We do something different every day, basically. I wasn’t so comfortable working with the inmates at first. But as the years progressed, it seemed to get a little easier. Some of them don’t want to get into too much of their backgrounds. But, some break free and we talk freely.

Right now, our whole crew is all drug-related. I have two drug dealers. And somebody was a user that just got caught while he was driving with drugs in the car.

• Family
Wife Patricia; two foster children.

• Education
Attended Northern Virginia Community College, Manassas, 1990-92; Fauquier High School, 1990.

• Civic involvement/church involvement
Lois Volunteer Fire Department, EMT/firefighter, 1995-05; Future Farmers of America, 1981-90; Midland Church of the Brethren facilities coordinator, 2008-14; Midland Church of the Brethren head usher, 2012-present; Midland Church of the Brethren member, 1984-present.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
34 years.

• Why do you live here? 
I call it home. I have a lot of friends and family here. It’s close to work and church.

• How do you describe this county? 
Big. Fauquier County is very diverse in its landscape. You’ve got lowlands, mountains, hills. You’ve got a little bit of everything. Most counties don’t have that, because we’re stretched so far. Overall, the people are very friendly.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
I wish they would four-lane Route 28 — just for traffic control and for safety. I know, with that, it brings development. One of my other thoughts, if I had a choice, I’d like to six-lane Route 29 from Gainesville to Charlottesville, put some kind of metro in the center of it for commuters. That would be a big picture for me. But, as far as any major development, I’d like to keep it the way it is.

• What do you do for fun? 
My wife would say I don’t have fun. I’ve always been a workaholic. Now, since we have kids, I like to take them to Monroe Park, in the southern end of the county. We go to the WARF for swimming.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
Crockett Park. That’s where our church does our baptisms — at the head of the lake. It’s just the tranquility of being out there.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years? 
I do not see any explosion in growth, like in Culpeper and Manassas did back years ago. I hope I don’t see that. I do see some moderate growth coming. Bealeton and Vint Hill are booming. Right now Marshall’s probably going to take that big jump in the next 10 years.

• Favorite TV show?
It’s not a specific show, but I like the National Geographic channel. They have a lot of different programs. Of course, I watch cartoons with the kids.

• Favorite movie? 
“Every Which Way But Loose.”

• Favorite book?
“Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls.

• Favorite vacation spot? 
Outer Banks, N.C.

• Favorite food? 
Lasagna.

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom? 
Son, read a section of the dictionary every night before you go to bed. Preston Pulliam.

I have a pretty good vocabulary. Everybody comes to me for spelling. I took his advice; it helped me through school.

• Who’s your hero and why?
Otto Steele, one of Hugo Stribling’s son-in-laws. He helped me deliver a lot of my skills in life. When he retired from IBM, he came to work with me at the skating rink. I was still young in life, still a teenager. And he actually gave me development skills that later in life came to help me out and to further myself.

We did a lot of hunting together, a lot of hands-on skills like with maintaining the rental houses (owned by Mr. Stribling). He was very talented with that stuff. He was very good at just doing day-to-day life skills. And for a teenager that didn’t have a father growing up, he was kind of more of like a father figure to me.

• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery? 
My dream would be to buy me a home and pay it off. And I would open my handyman business service for the elderly in the community, as a Christian program. All proceeds would go to the church.

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Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? E-mail Cassandra Brown at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), Don Del Rosso at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Editor Lou Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
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