By Camille Davis
Special to the AFRO

While the 116th Congress remains in session during the COVID-19 pandemic, the support of essential workers on Capitol Hill is crucial. 

District of Columbia native and federal government employee, William Wharton is an elevator mechanic for the Architect of the Capitol and is deemed essential to ensure elevators on premises run properly and covered in case of emergency.

William Wharton, an essential worker who serves Congress as an elevator mechanic, told the AFRO he tries to remain busy in the house while he waits for his shift to work because hours have been tremendously reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

“We must have coverage if someone gets stuck in the elevator,” Wharton said. “I’m proud to support Congress during this difficult time.”

Currently a Charles County, Maryland resident, most of Wharton’s time is being spent at home… waiting. There are nine employees in his department, and Wharton now has to rotate shifts- as staff has been reduced to one mechanic and one supervisor each week. What was normally an 80-hour pay period for Wharton has now been significantly reduced. 

“This is the most time I’ve had off in my 30 years of service,” Wharton said.  Although humble, Wharton’s now, less-than-part-time schedule reflects 40 hours worked over six weeks.

Since there are a “few guys with health issues,” Wharton explained, staff “must stay off until everything returns to normal.” Aside from those health issues, his office remains intact and motivated to “return to normal.”

Wharton’s days are now primarily spent doing house projects and exercise. Keeping busy and his mind sharp are Wharton’s priorities during quarantine and social distancing. However, stable mental health doesn’t replace the joy that Wharton would usually receive from seeing his three grandchildren, whom he hasn’t been able to see since the pandemic.