SIDNEY — Karen Jenkins, who is retiring from the city of Sidney after over 31 years, said she feels “very blessed” to have worked for the city.
“I guess I kinda have Sidney in my blood,” Jenkins said with a laugh when describing being born, of graduating high school and having a career in Sidney.
But Jenkins’ almost 32-year career with the city took an unexpected path to retirement in that it was “temporarily interrupted” due to a lay off caused by the economy.
She was first hired in 1985 and worked for the engineer’s department for 26 1/2 years. She worked her way up, starting as an engineering aide, to an engineering technician I, to an engineering technician II position before the economy took a hit and was laid off in 2010. Jenkins then resumed working for the city in 2012, but due to cuts in the engineering department, took a substitute driver position with the Shelby Public Transit. Now working as scheduler, she is retiring after five years with the public transit.
Jenkins said when she first started with the engineering department most of the construction plans and calculations were done with a T-square and a drafting board by hand — and several more hands were needed. Over time, she said, computer-aided-drafting programs and electronic surveying equipment came along and less people were needed. Jenkins said she did inspections, worked on construction plans and maintained utility inventory and infrastructure, for water sewer storms, city properties and bridges, etc.
For this type of work she holds an associate degree of applied science in civil engineering and an associate degree of applied science in architectural technology from Edison State Community College.
“The biggest thing to me (that stood out), was from about 1980-95, this town grew tremendously — industrial and residential. Major growth,” Jenkins said. “We did a lot of five-year planning to set up for growth for the city, and so we could never keep up. The growth was happening so fast.”
“It was a team,” Jenkins said of engineering department. “It was a department of seven people as a team. Our department did a lot of inspections overseeing the growth of the city and everything was being done toward city standards.”
Her work with the public transit, was vastly different from her job in the engineering department, Jenkins said. Monday through Friday, she said she was on the phone all day with up to 50 calls a day scheduling trips for their riders. She filled in for their dispatcher and was a trainer for new drivers. The public transit has over 25 drivers who transport more than 200 people a day, Jenkins said.
“Karen worked in engineering for a lot of years, and in transit for the last few years, and she’s done an exceptional job. We are sorry to see her go. She is going to be hard to replace,” said the city’s Human Resource Manager Vicki Allen.
Her official last “day on the books” is next week on Sept. 29, but her retirement party was held Friday. During the Proclamation of Karen Jenkins Day, Mayor Mike Barhorst said she served as a “valuable public servant” for Sidney and praised her “keen attention to detail” for the engineering department. He also acknowledged her “willingness to accept the change of roles” due to downsizing of city staff, and most of the engineering department, as a result of the great recession.
“Karen Jenkins has shown dedication, perseverance, determination and good cheer during her career with the city,” Barhorst said.
Jenkins summing up her feelings about working for the city, “Good people. Very good people. I’ve had excellent relationships with the city and employees, and county employees.”
Jenkins’ supervisor Ron Shallow, Shelby Public Transit manager, said, “Karen did a fantastic job. I’m happy for her that she will be able to retire and enjoy life.”
“There are so many things you can do for your community (here in Sidney). You can work here, whether its serving the community in a job, or doing things outside of a job,” Jenkins said of hope to inspire other Sidney residents to contribute to the city.
She said she is ready for the next chapter and is looking forward to getting back to volunteering, and spending time with friends and family. Jenkins is single and the mother of two adult daughters, Caitlin, 26, and Dana, 23. After retirement, she plans to work part-time, teach coquetting at Studio 14 Creative Arts Center in Troy and Tipp City and continue help teaching religion classes to youngsters at Holy Angels Catholic School. She also is looking for other places to volunteer her time, as she used to volunteer for the Red Cross, Holy Angels and Lehman Catholic High School and is a former Girl Scout leader.
“When you spend a lot of time serving the community, it’s like you want to give back to the community too. That’s what we are all here for. So, I plan on doing that,” Jenkins said. “That’s what makes a community strong.”
“I feel very, very blessed to have the opportunity to worked for the city. A lot of great people out there: the citizens we’ve worked with, the contractors, drivers. I guess I could just go on and on. I’ve come to find that there are just some really wonderful people out there in the world,” Jenkins said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.