Four women with nearly 100 combined years of service to Sampson County said their official goodbyes during a Monday Board of Commissioners meeting, at which they were honored by county officials, their fellow employees, family and friends for their dedication over the years.
“They had 97 years of service to this county,” said board vice-chairwoman Sue Lee, who presided over the occasion in the absence of chairman Billy Lockamy. “I think that’s awesome.”
Lee presented plaques to each of the employees, starting with Alice Williams, who served the Sampson County Detention Center from May 2000 to June 2016. Williams offered thanks to God and her family.
“I appreciated the opportunity working for Sampson County and Sheriff (Jimmy) Thornton — he’s an awesome guy to work for,” she remarked, imploring commissioners to continue to stand behind Thornton. “This man has a heavy load on him. Everybody in the county calls him. He has a big job to do and it takes everyone in the county to support him in order to accomplish his mission.”
Thornton returned his gratitude to a woman he said was key to the Detention Center, dispensing medication and ensuring operations ran well day in and day out.
“Ms. Alice started in 2000 and was in that dungeon of a jail until 2007. It was like going from hell to heaven,” said Thornton. “Alice has truly been a true public servant. We certainly appreciate everything you’ve done. Thank you.”
Grace Weeks retired from the Department of Aging/Transportation, having served July 1990 to July 2016. As with Williams, Lee presented Weeks with a plaque in recognition of her service.
“I appreciated my time here,” Weeks remarked. “It gave me the opportunity to learn and help people. At the end of the day, when you go home and you feel like you have done something to help someone else and make their life easier, it is worth it.”
Michelle Hill retired from the Sheriff’s Office, serving from September 1988 to July 2016. Thornton detailed Hill’s laundry list of accomplishments and the many capacities in which she served the department throughout her career. He presented her with her service weapon and lauded her for what she has meant to the county.
“I just wanted to let you all know that it has been an honor and a pleasure to work for the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office. I have worked for a fine man. I couldn’t ask for a better boss, a lieutenant and a captain,” Hill remarked.
Hill started out in 1988 as a dispatcher, ascending the ranks to chief dispatcher in just three years. In 1993, she was sworn in as a deputy in the sheriff’s criminal division. Under three different sheriffs, Hill worked in nearly every capacity of the Sheriff’s Office reaching the rank of lieutenant.
“Michelle worked for three sheriffs, me the longest,” Thornton attested. “She will be missed. She always kept something going all the time. We certainly will miss Michelle and we appreciate all the service she provided.
Janet Melvin retired from the Department of Social Services, serving from September 1989 to July 2016, finishing as a supervisor of DSS’ Child Support division. She thanked her family members, DSS director Sarah Bradshaw and her supervisor Kay Stafford. Melvin thanked Bradshaw for the confidence and faith she had in her and Stafford “for putting up with me all these years.”
“I really have enjoyed serving Sampson County Child Support. My profession is a little awkward. You make enemies, but you also gain the respect of those you try and establish money and insurance for — and that was our job. We needed to make sure the children of Sampson County got what they deserve, whether it was insurance, acknowledgement of a father or money,” Melvin stated. ” I enjoyed working with the people. I love serving people and I’m going to miss it, but I know it’s my time to leave.”
Bradshaw said it was “an absolute pleasure” to work with “a very dedicated supervisor” Melvin.
“Janet has come in with that smile every single day and we’ve never had a (negative) call about her,” said Bradshaw. “It has not always been a pleasant job, but she’s made it pleasant for the children and the families. We are really missing something right now.”
“Janet made her job her ministry and she did an excellent job,” Stafford added. “We truly miss you. Thank you for your service.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.