My heart is a little broken.
On Friday, June 13, 1980, a 20-year old named Sharon walked into City Hall in Portage la Prairie to apply for the job of switchboard operator. They put her to work that afternoon.
On Friday, February 13, 2015, Sharon walked out of City Hall after nearly 35 years of dedicated service, minus a couple of maternity leaves.
Sharon progressed through many roles and sat at several desks over those years, finishing as Manager of Administration. She survived several Strawberry Festivals, the strike of 1983, the installation of the first computer at City Hall; the forest fire evacuation of northern Manitobans from God’s Lake Narrows to Portage in 1995, the creation of the Island of Lights, the building of the PCU Centre, the switch to paperless Council meetings in 2010, and more. She worked with nine different mayors and a multitude of City councillors and staff.
Sharon knows every room of the old castle on the corner of Saskatchewan Avenue and Royal Road, what’s in it, and where to find the key. She knows whom to call when the toilet overflows, the photocopier malfunctions, or the fire alarm rings. She can direct you to the right person if you need your water turned on, or your street is flooded, or you believe you have a claim against the City. She can arrange for your street to be closed while you host a block party or assist you in obtaining subsidy for the in-line backwater valve you purchased, or register you to speak to Council. If you live in Portage la Prairie, you need to know you have benefitted from the behind-the-scenes attention given to detail by our Sharon.
She even knows how to run a smooth election.
When I came on board as an Administrative Assistant nearly six years ago, Sharon trained me and has been my supervisor and friend ever since. Although she taught me everything I know, she did not manage to teach me everything she knows. That’s because much of her knowledge is carried around in her memory bank, surfacing when needed. Although Diane is already proving herself a capable replacement, even she cannot be expected to automatically know all the stuff Sharon knows. If the walls of City Hall have ears, they are wondering why they no longer hear the oft-repeated phrase, “ask Sharon.”
Which means the rest of us will need to grow up a little. We’re thinking of wearing WWSD bracelets: “What would Sharon do?” Actually, Sharon’s done an admirable job of helping us make that transition over the last several weeks. Even though it’s a human tendency to mentally and emotionally check out once your exit date is set, Sharon stayed invested in her job and in her working relationships right through her last afternoon. We can all learn from her example, and I hope I do as well when my turn comes.
But I hate saying good-bye.
Not that I begrudge Sharon’s retirement. When you’ve worked at the same place 35 years, you deserve to retire. Yes, even though you are younger than I am. (OK, so maybe I begrudge it an eensy-weensy smidge.)
Sharon, thank you for all you’ve taught me in your calm, patient way. I will always be grateful for the privilege of working with you. Your easy-going nature has made work an enjoyable and safe place to be. You are dearly loved and will be sorely missed. God bless you.