By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News 9/1/19
Shari Avent has spent 30 years in the gas industry; now she’s bringing her knowledge and experience to Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) and the residents of Las Cruces. Avent is currently the only female meter mechanic at LCU…but she’s not the first. “She follows Terry Martinez - a female meter mechanic back in the 1990’s at LCU who spent about 20 years on the job,” notes LCU Gas Pressure & Service Supervisor, Andy Sanchez.
Avent doesn’t bat an eye when it comes to doing her job: She started in the gas industry as a gas meter reader hired through a temp agency, then moved on to get her gas fitters license. “I like being out in the field on my own,” Avent says. “It’s challenging to stay up-to-date on regulations, but as long as you study up, it’s not bad. There are reference guides for sizing the right meters for the right BTUs.”
Avent explains that a BTU is a British Thermal Unit – the quantity of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Above a certain level of BTUs, a meter is reclassified from residential to a commercial meter.
Avent says, “One of the perks of the job is getting an early look at new home construction. I love seeing new homes when I turn on new meters.” She continues stating, “It allows me to see what new ideas and designs people are building in houses just coming on the market.”
Originally from Iowa, she married and moved to Albuquerque where she spent most of her career as part of a gas meter technician with an emergency services crew. “We’d go out when someone reported the “rotten egg” sulfur smell around their house, to check and see if they had a gas leak and get it repaired,” she explained.
Now in Las Cruces after following her son, Avent looks forward to learning the local roads, meters, and meeting her new fellow citizens.
You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides NATURAL GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: LCU Gas Meter Mechanic, Shari Avent, shows how to check a gas meter for leaks by dunking it in water and blowing air through. Bubbles show where the problem is and guide how she will go on to make repairs.