By Judah Taylor
Traffic gathers around 7:30 a.m., and now his watch begins.
Ed Dailey, 60, is the parking control attendant who guards UK’s main entrance on South Limestone Street. On his watch not anybody — not President Eli Capilouto or a commuting groundhog — can pass through his gate without consent.
“He’s the front door to the university,” said Amy Hisel, the president’s liaison to the Board of Trustees, when Dailey stopped her this past Friday before letting her park. “We don’t know what we’d do without him.”
Dailey ensures that Board of Trustees members and the president’s guests have a place to park along Administration Drive. He also keeps an eye on the motorcycle and handicap-accessible parking lots near the Gillis Building and Patterson Office Tower.
“He greets everyone,” said Eddie Wesley, Dailey’s supervisor. “But no one gets by him. Trust me.”
Except for two 15-minute breaks and 30 minutes for lunch, Dailey spends every workday inside the small glass-walled room of the guardhouse, listening to the radio and traffic scanner.
“Seldomly does he take a day off,” Wesley said, adding that “his attitude, loyalty to UK and punctuality” make him perfect for the job.
While Dailey welcomes some to campus each day, he is also the first face some ever meet on campus.
From prospective families looking for their tours to people seeking the emergency room, Dailey helps people find their way.
“For some of them, Lexington is pretty big city and they don’t know where they’re going,” he said.
It’s a feeling Dailey knows well.
Hailing from Bourbon County, Dailey lives about an hour northeast of Lexington.
Even though he attended UK for a semester in the ‘70s, he said he never became acquainted with all of Lexington and prefers it that way.
“I’m just a country boy,” he said. “I wouldn’t live in the city unless I had to.”
However, Dailey knows where to direct travelers to the most-sought destinations around campus.
“If you know your left from your right, I can get you where you need to go,” he said.
Giving directions and interacting with people is his favorite part of the job, he said.
“Sometimes the people who stop here are really stressed,” he said. “Maybe they’re looking for the hospital or are late for something. … When I see someone (in a) panic and help them, it’s a sense of relief.”
He’s a people-person who says everybody is his friend.
Over the last eight years, Dailey has gotten to know the “regulars,” and will often just wave them on. Sometimes they will stop for a chat, too.
“You get to know whom you can joke around with — and who you can talk with and who you can’t,” he said.
Interacting with people doesn’t always make the job fun though, he said. There are some necessary evils that come with the territory — like writing parking citations.
“Whenever you trust someone to do what is asked and they park illegally or overstay, it’s sad,” Dailey said. “I always asked myself, why did they do this? Were they held up by something or did something happen to them?”
Although he said he tries to give people a few extra minutes, he has a job to do, which means making sure parking spots are open for those who need them.
When Dailey is not in the guardhouse, he is tending his garden at home.
Dailey is a member of the American Hemerocallis Society, a nonprofit organization that promotes education and development of daylilies. He has been collecting the colorful flower for 30 years.
Although he loves to garden, he said it isn’t something he gets to do all the time.
At 3:30 p.m. when he clocks out, his watch doesn’t end. That’s when he prepares to head to his second post: Home.
Awaiting him there is another group that depends on his care — his 96-year-old mother, his cat, Wiggins, and his garden full of daylilies.