If you’ve ever seen Tapper running a 5k, playing football with other mascots at the annual mascot bowl, dancing, or attempting to ride a bicycle, then you have likely seen Michelle Durham. Countless Louisville Water employees have volunteered to don Louisville Water’s chipper blue mascot over the years, but none have done so as often or enthusiastically as she.
“Tapper is my favorite job,” says the plant maintenance mechanic, who started as a general labor with the union shortly after she graduated college and has been with the company for 22 years. “I love it. People are happy he’s there. It brings joy.”
Durham especially loves when Tapper has the opportunity to visit special needs children and support good causes. She recalls a few times where seeing the happiness on the kids’ faces when they interact with her as Tapper brought tears to her eyes. She adds, “You know you’re touching them and their lives.”
Never one to sit still, Durham lettered in six sports in high school, went to college on a volleyball scholarship and for years played semi-professional football until a blown-out knee left her with strict doctor’s orders to stop playing contact sports. Now, she reserves her energy for strutting down the new Abraham Lincoln Bridge as Tapper, or leading a “zombie walk” around the Crescent Hill Reservoir as Tapper.
ask me where I get the energy,” says Durham. “I don’t know. I just put on the suit and I’m Tapper. If It was just me, I couldn’t do it, but if I’m behind that Tapper suit…”
She may be selling herself a little short. Durham’s day job as a plant maintenance mechanic often requires a lot of energy too. She can be found bouncing between properties working on a variety of things—the filtration plants at Crescent Hill and BE Payne, the pumps on Zorn Avenue, any of the 70 booster pumps or 40 water tanks around town, countless transmitters or switches, chlorine testers, “basically anything that controls anything.”
When River Road floods, Durham is one of the employees who gets transported to the pumping station via rescue boat to ensure operations continue smoothly despite flooding. She’s also climbed many of the water towers.
The variety of tasks keeps Durham on her toes, which she enjoys, but she’ll be the first to say she would love to devote more of her time to being in costume and bringing smiles to people’s faces. One day, after she retires, she’d like to have a costumed character of her own that she could take to hospitals or nursing homes where people need an emotional boost.
“I know that Tapper wouldn’t be a full-time job but I wish it could be,” she jokes.
Maybe he could have his own cubicle?