On the Job: Senior Locksmith Keeps Doors Opening

Posted: March 7, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Ryann Doyle

Providing access and security to thousands of people is what David Lee looks forward to every day when he comes to work at Mason as senior locksmith/senior key control specialist.

For the last 16 years, Lee has ensured that administrators, professors, students and staff at Mason have access to the places where they need to be. He has also seen to it that they can leave their belongings locked up safely when they leave.

David Lee
Keeping track of thousands of keys is all in a day’s work for senior locksmith David Lee.
Photo by Ryann Doyle

Mason runs on a master key system, meaning that University Police, Facilities Management staff and others who need to access to multiple locations on campus get a master key that can open multiple doors.

Lee says this is important because if there is an emergency on campus, officials need to be able to unlock any door they need to. The type of key issued depends on how much access a position at the university requires.

Even though Lee is not a certified police officer, his office is part of the police department, and he is in charge of the locksmith and key control office at three Mason campuses.

Lee says he is not the kind of person who likes being tied down to a desk, so he appreciates the flexibility of being able to work in the office or go out and do field work.

“No two days are the same. On any given day a number of things could happen that fall directly under my jurisdiction,” says Lee. “I handle everything, from planning out and installing new systems, cutting and issuing keys, helping the police department in investigations, assisting in office moves and a lot more.”

One of his greatest professional accomplishments was when he started a new shop at the Prince William Campus and established a new master key system for the entire campus.

“Very few people get the opportunity to start their own shop from scratch, so that was a highlight of my career. On top of that, I had to create all the master keys and parameters for the Prince William Campus as a whole,” says Lee. “That’s important, because if you don’t choose the right size or type of system, you can come up short. So if the Prince William Campus grows as large as the Fairfax Campus does, but I decided on a smaller system, one day there will be a building that won’t fit on the system.”

Lee also works on Saturdays as a commercial locksmith. Both jobs require concentration and different skills, allowing him to take skills learned from one job and apply them to the other.

“At Mason, I need more patience, communication and political skills — things you don’t necessarily put together with a locksmith. On the weekends, I use more locksmith skills, such as picking locks, replacing locks, et cetera. So it’s a good complement being an institutional locksmith Monday through Friday and a commercial locksmith on Saturdays.”

Lee, who wrote an article titled “Emergency Spare Key,” in the September 2004 issue of National Locksmith, is well aware that the key control operation, although sometimes taken for granted, is critical to the smooth functioning of the university.

“If you have a ring of keys that you carry around on a regular basis that provide access to your car, house, work or room, and that key ring disappears with no way of replacing it, it gives you an idea of how important keys are in people’s lives,” says Lee.

“A lot of people don’t consciously think of the importance of keys. But in the absence of a key, they truly realize how important it is when they don’t have the ability to get in a certain room or lock up something valuable. So that’s when it hits home — the importance of my job and operations like this.”

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