GALVA — Getting her hands dirty and driving rather large trucks is nothing out of the ordinary for Stephanie Unruh.
At a young age, Unruh began learning the ways of her father's business in Arkansas.
"My dad has always worked on his own trucks and taught me how to drive when I was in elementary school. I would always be in the shop with him and help while he worked on his trucks, whether it be taking a transmission out or changing the tires," she said.
When it was time to venture out on her own, Unruh discovered Auto House Towing & Recovery in Galva.
"Then I worked in town and saw an ad in the paper for a company that needed a dispatcher, I applied. I came here and talked to everybody and figured out it was a towing company and thought, 'well OK, I'll give it a shot.' So I came in as a dispatcher," she explained.
Even though Unruh began as a dispatcher, she quickly realized she had discovered her newfound love for towing by watching her co-workers.
"When I saw the guys start going out, I'm like ‘man, this is cool.' So I asked my boss and he said yeah go ahead and he stood by and watched and coached me along, so this is how I got into the towing," Unruh said.
Unruh said she often gets baffled looks when driving down the highway not only because of driving down the highway not only because of her small stature, but because she is a woman. Being a woman in her career may come with challenges because there are so few women in the industry, but she faces them head on.
"So far luckily I've never had any challenges. I think because woman are more accepted now than they ever used to be in a man's world. There were times when I show up somewhere and they're looking at me like, 'Seriously, you're going to do this?' But when I get it done, they're like, 'That was the coolest thing I've ever seen a woman do’ or ‘I've never been towed by a woman'" she explained.
Unruh said she may receive confused looks on the job, but she has received positive support from coworkers.
"All the guys that I work with, if we go do a tow together or an accident together, none of the guys that work here have ever treated me any different. They don't say, 'You can't do that, or don't do that.' They know my capabilities and they just let me work," Unruh said. "A lot of the times these guys actually call me for advice — they treat me as a normal employee that they work with every day."
She said her days consist of a plethora of tasks and she never knows what to expect. Tasks range from answering phones, helping her drivers, payroll, going on a call herself and much more.
While many have a regular day at the office, Unruh has not seen one since she began.
"When I was hired back in 2010, they said I would work 8 to 5 or 5:30, I'm not sure which 5:30 they were talking about because I haven't seen an 8 to 5:30 yet," she laughed.
Unruh is ready for whatever the day throws at her, even if that means traveling to a completely different state to help with a tow.
"The furthest I've gone is up near the Canadian border in Washington state. I've also been to Tampa, Florida. You don't plan, you just go then you have to figure it out," she said.
Before leaving the office to assist with a call, there's one thing in particular that Unruh always brings along — her dog Rolo.
"He just goes everywhere, he's kind like a staple. If we go on a truck wreck I have to leave him in the truck, but he's right there at that window watching. For the most part everyone loves him," she said.
Before beginning at Auto House, Unruh had no idea her boss was going to be her lifelong best friend, and husband.
"We both happened to have gotten divorced, and then we did more and more work together — it just happened," she said.
Often times couples like to have their space and their own jobs, but for Unruh and her husband Chris, they would rather spend their days together.
"We're together 24/7. Sometimes it works for people, sometimes it doesn't. In our case, it works great. If we go out and do a job together, we don't even have to talk to each other, it just runs smooth and if he's working on something, I know what he's thinking and I'm usually right there behind him, it just rolls so smooth," Unruh explained.
For more information, contact Auto House Towing & Recovery at 620-654-3210.
Contact Brooke Haas by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @ MacSentinel.