When voters go to the polls in San Diego on Tuesday, many of them will be greeted by Boyd Applegate. The 56-year-old truck driver has worked nearly every election — primaries and general elections — for the past 20 years.
Election Day starts early for Applegate. Around 4 a.m., he piles ballots and election materials into his car and drives the 25 miles to the precinct. Throughout the day, he is greeted by people who recognize him as the guy at the polls, year after year.
"People call me by name and tell me about their families, and I have a lot of friendships solely based on Election Day," Applegate told his sister Rhonda Dixon at StoryCorps.
Applegate drives a big 5-axle class-8 truck. These days, he hauls military freight for a living.
"December of this year I will actually achieve the 5-million-mile mark," he says. "And I still love to toot the horn when I see a kid yank his arm down in the window in traffic. I always respond to that."
In 1993, Applegate won the Goodyear National Highway Hero award for saving three people's lives in two accidents, nine weeks apart. That award is like the Medal of Honor for the trucking industry.
Although he has changed jobs over the years, Applegate has always been a truck driver, and always takes Election Day off. He says he keeps coming back to the polls because he believes what he is doing is important.
"Over the years, I've run into many people who are naturalized citizens — they've come from all over the world," he says. "I've had people approach me and ask me, 'How much do I have to pay to cast my ballot?'
"I've had people with tears in their eyes, grown people, who are voting for the first time in their life because the country where they come from, they didn't have that right."
Applegate says he's glad to "help lighten the mood and set them at ease that they're doing fine, and there is no wrong way to vote.
"I'm there as a representative of what's right in America, and I enjoy it."
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo and recorded in partnership with KPBS.