published Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Phillip D. Glass gets a facelift (with video)

Morning rush traffic passes Tennessee American Water icon, Phillip D. Glass. The metal sign will come down for a redesign. He should be reinstalled sometime in mid-July.
Morning rush traffic passes Tennessee American Water icon, Phillip D. Glass. The metal sign will come down for a redesign. He should be reinstalled sometime in mid-July.
Photo by Tim Barber.
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  • Tennessee American Water's Phillip D. Glass is temporarily removed
    Phillip D. Glass, the iconic smiling face of the Tennessee American Water Co. will be temporarily removed from its spot atop a water storage tank on Amnicola Highway. The billboard will be replaced in 45 to 60 days after routine maintenance and cleaning on the tank.

Thousands of Chattanoogans see him every day.

Perched atop the Tennessee American Water tank that faces Amnicola Highway, Phillip D. Glass offers a tip of the hardhat along with the message, "Good Morning Chattanooga."

In 1989, Glass was a way to put a face on the century-old company. His copper-colored bangs sweep across his forehead in a 1980s hairstyle once-again popular with college students today.

But today Glass comes off the tank for the first time since his placement for a much-needed refurbishment.

The water company's spokesman, Kino Becton, said as part of routine maintenance on the tank workers will repaint the local icon and update his look.

Exact details are still being worked out, he said. But local graphic design company, Graphic Works, has the task of tweaking Glass.

Graphic Works employee Emory Fry said there will be some uniform changes and the water company's logo will match the newer design on current employees' uniforms.

"It's been a while, and over time the sun works its magic on everything," Fry said.

He's not sure if Glass will get a new haircut.

The tank, actually located on Riverside Drive, is being repainted as part of routine, life cycle maintenance the water company performs on all tanks, said Vincent Butler, company representative.

It will take six workers contracted by bidding through a local engineering company four to six weeks to make structural repairs, recoat the inside of the tank and repaint the exterior, Butler said.

The total cost is $870,000, and each of the company's 25 tanks in the Chattanooga and North Georgia region is refurbished at least once in their 25- to 30-year life cycle, he said.

The 1.8-million-gallon tank, which is 94 feet wide and 35 feet tall, is an average sized tank for the company's system, Butler said.

Becton said that Glass got his name through a local radio show call-in contest and the two finalists were "Phillip D. Glass" (think about it a minute), and "Hank the Tank."

Glass won out, and he's greeted Chattanoogans daily ever since. Sometimes Glass tips his white hardhat, sometimes a blue and gold UTC Mocs helmet. A few times he's waved Riverbend tickets at passersby.

Becton said the company partners with other businesses to promote different local events and causes such as breast cancer awareness and, in recent weeks, blood donation with the logo for Blood Assurance on Glass' left chest pocket.

It's been a lonely job for the smiling icon, but soon he'll have a little break. Becton said company officials have decided to design a female co-worker who'll alternate tank time with Glass.

Her name likely will be decided by a public poll, just as Glass' was, Becton said. The process should take a few months. Meanwhile, Glass should be back up welcoming drivers into downtown by mid- to late-July, once the refurbishment is finished.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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