Employees of Bakersfield’s Recreation and Parks Department don’t exactly expect recognition for their work.
These city staffers show up to work every day, even when the weather creeps past 100 degrees, operating in the background so families can enjoy the green spaces of the city. They clean up graffiti from local parks, fix broken toilets in public restrooms and plant trees by roadsides. Usually, nobody thanks them for their work, but they quietly take pride in making the city a better place.
So it was a huge surprise when NBCUniversal selected a Bakersfield parks employee to recognize on the national stage.
As part of a promotion for the show “Parks and Recreation” moving to the streaming service Peacock, the network selected five employees from various departments across the country to award and feature in a special video on the platform.
Carlos Garcia, a 41-year-old park services coordinator in Bakersfield, was chosen as one of the five. NBCUniversal said in a news release Garcia’s tireless work and dedication to the community were factors in his selection.
“I’m just like, ‘Wow,’” Garcia said. “I wasn’t really expecting it to go this far. It was something new for me, but it’s been good.”
As part of the video, which will premiere exclusively on Peacock on Tuesday, Garcia was interviewed by Jim O’Heir, who portrayed Jerry Gergich on the show. O’Heir will present all five honorees an award as part of Peacock’s promotion, and thank them for creating a safe and friendly place where the public can enjoy the outdoors.
Garcia has worked for the department for the past three years, quickly rising up the ranks to head one of the city’s rapid-response teams. Previously employed by various landscaping and gardening companies, and a brief foray in running is own business, he says he enjoys working with nature, and is thankful for the opportunity afforded to him through his work by the city.
A father of six kids — two of whom are adopted and another he and his wife care for as foster parents — Garcia had to convince his family the award was real.
“To be honest, I thought my husband was playing a joke on me,” said Garcia’s wife, Monica. “Then he started showing me the emails … it was kind of a shocking moment.”
She added that while she and her husband were not on Earth to be praised, the recognition was nevertheless welcome.
“It’s very nice, of course,” she said. “But the feeling that I would describe it more, is humbling, and kind of ‘Oh, wow, this is really happening.’”
In the news release, NBCUniversal said Garcia was selected partly because in one year, his team has removed 18 tons of trash from a local riverbed, repaired numerous irrigation heads and replaced multiple restroom gates, tasks the network said made a huge impact on the safety and cleanliness of the city’s parks.
In talking with The Californian, Garcia was quick to credit his co-workers.
“This is not just a one-man thing, but it takes a team to do what we do here in the city of Bakersfield,” he said.
Although one daughter is deployed in the military, the Garcias plan to gather their children on Tuesday for a watch party. Garcia admitted he had not seen the “Parks and Recreation” show, but would start soon.
His boss, Recreation and Parks Director Dianne Hoover, also plans on tuning in.
“It speaks well of Bakersfield that he was one of the ones that was chosen to be featured on this show,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing it. It’s a little bit beyond what I thought would ever happen. It’s pretty exciting.”
Those interested in viewing “Parks and Recreation” and the associated award show can visit peacocktv.com or download the Peacock app. Garcia’s video will be available on Tuesday, which NBCUniversial is calling “Treat Yo Self Day” in reference to the show’s popular refrain.
Sam Morgen can be reached at 661-395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @smorgenTBC.