You might think the pairing of 61-year-old nightclub ‘night’ host Terry Johnston and military man Randall Smith somewhat unusual.
However, their mutual love for the environment and a deep-rooted desire to work in the community protecting the region’s rivers crossed the generational divide and sparked an unlikely friendship. “Our teamwork is a combination of brains and brawn, and luckily Randall has both of those features,” laughs Terry.
“In truth, we bounce ideas off each other and it seems to work.” The father of two grown daughters first met 37-year-old Randall when Severn Trent launched its River Rangers scheme in January 2022.
“We met at the interview day at the Severn Trent Academy,” added Terry. “I was impressed by his background and attitude when we all had to give a talk about ourselves, and I could tell straight away that Randall would be an asset to Severn Trent. I had a feeling that I would see him again.”
And it turned out, Terry was right. The pair were assigned as River Rangers for both Birmingham and Worcestershire and have spent the past 18 months helping to improve water quality across the region’s waterways. Whilst Terry has worked in various departments within Severn Trent for the past 15 years, becoming a River Ranger was a whole new experience for father-of-three Randall.
Born in Manchester, Jamaica, Randall joined the Jamaican Defence force at the age of 21 where he served for more than a decade, trained in air, land and sea operations. When he moved to the UK, he was employed as a traffic warden in Birmingham for two years before joining Severn Trent.
“I chose this job so that I could do something positive for the environment, while working outdoors which I really enjoy,” said Randall. “The best part of my job is being able to make a difference and help improve the health of the rivers.
“A typical day for us starts with planning, as it is dependent on the weather as to where we work and what activities we undertake. Our tasks range from supporting community groups with their projects around rivers, such as cutting back bushes or litter picking, through to taking samples from watercourses and recording vital data.”
All the information collected by River Rangers, helps Severn Trent understand the needs of the network of rivers. And their work is crucial in helping to protect waterways, a role born out of Severn Trent’s industry leading Get River Positive programme which is a commitment to improving the health of the region’s rivers.
A team of ten rangers cover the Severn Trent region, working closely with partners to improve river health and educate customers on how to avoid the wrong things going down the drain and into sewers. Since being launched, they have carried out over 5,000 riverside inspections and attended over 110 meetings with partners, environment and community groups on the subject of river health.
To mark World River’s Day, Severn Trent is in the middle of a week-long celebration to highlight the important work needed to protect rivers across the region – including the impressive work of River Rangers.
And it’s a job that both Terry and Randall want to continue.
Randall added: “A major achievement would be to continue identifying and highlighting any issues we have with our rivers, so that we can help. Severn Trent is working hard to improve our waterways and I’m very proud to be part of that.
“I consider myself very lucky to be a River Ranger and to be working with Terry. When I first met him, I was intrigued by the knowledge he possesses, and I knew I could learn a lot from him.
“We get on really well and coming from another country, Terry is like a history book. I have a lot of respect for him, and I have come to know him and his family very well. We work great as a team, and we get to do important work that brings a lot of benefits to a lot of people.”