It’s the second anniversary of People at Work, our monthly series that tells you about a day in the life of a San Diegan, through the lens of his or her job. Whatever you call it — job, career, 9-to-5, vocation — it likely occupies at least eight hours of your day, five or more days (or nights) a week. Some work solely for sustenance, for food and shelter. Others pursue hobbies or interests and find ways to make money doing what they love.

My coverage of the housing market, the job market and other issues related to surviving in San Diego often barrages you with data and graphs and statistics. But this series is an effort to illuminate the local economy through a human lens.

We launched the series in September 2006. We wanted to know, who are the workers in hospitality, in construction, in the big companies, like Geico and WD-40, based here? Who is the woman who serves my wee-hours meal in the drive-thru? Who’s the guy I see trimming trees along the thoroughfares of Tierrasanta? What’s the life story of the man who helps grieving families choose a casket at the funeral home? Where did the guy who takes my money at the cafe grow up?

I think one of journalism’s many ideal functions is to help the people who live in a place talk to each other, learn about each other, identify with each other. Part of that means understanding the way a local economy is structured. And a subsequent part of that means knowing and beginning to understand better the stories of their neighbors.

A large component of each story is a photograph or several of the subject in the workplace. Our photographer, Sam Hodgson, captures a good mix of candids and portraits of the person in his or her job. Recently, he’s started adding video, which adds a whole new dimension to our efforts to introduce you to each of these people. It sounds like a cliche, but the subjects have been so interesting I often feel as if the most recent one is my new favorite.

Today’s story about Andre Garrett marks the 25th installment in the series. If you’ve missed any, we’ve archived them in this index page. I’ve made some calls to check in with the subjects of the last two September profiles — Chuck Thomas, the Star of India painter, and Jose Powell, the drywall apprentice. I’ll let you know what I hear back about what they’re up to now, a year or two after I spent the day with them.

As always, please send me your tips or suggestions for future pieces in the series. You can e-mail me at


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