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Front Page » April 19, 2007 » Focus on secretary week » Organizational right arms
Published 3,093 days ago

Organizational right arms

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Sun Advocate writers

Jana Abrams
Ricki Palmer
Sandra McManus

Ask any manager to name a person in their company that they should not, could not and would not do without and almost inevitably they will answer "my secretary."

In these days of changing technology, fast pace communications and complicated business dealings, there is no one more universally appreciated than a good secretary, or an administrative assistant as they are known today.

The proficiency and good administrative assistant has also goes with the kind of job they have. Few of them just type letters and make coffee anymore. In fact many have so many duties and talents it is hard not to see them as a co-manager along with their boss.

Take Jana Abrams for instance. She is the office manager for the Castle Country Travel Region, but she also holds another title that is important to tourism in this part of the state. She is the energy loop by-ways coordinator, a position in which she not only has to write grants to gund various kinds of projects, but must also coordinate projects and events with the United States Forest Service, which lies around Highways 96, 264 and 31, where the Huntington-Eccles Energy Loop by-way exists.

But the summation of a person that works as an administrative assistant is often in their past experience as much as it is in their ability to do the job at the present time.

Since graduating from Carbon High School, Abrams has been active in working in varied environments, including working in Washington, D.C., for the FBI in the identification department.

"At the time the FBI came around to high schools recruiting people to work in the agency," she said. "I decided it was something I was going to do so I joined up and as soon as I graduated in May I got on an airplane, landed in Dullas National Airport and soon I was working in FBI headquarters. It was quite an experience."

She said that one time she was getting on an elevator and realized that J. Edgar Hoover was on it.

"I didn't know if I should get on or not; he had two big body guards with him," she laughed.

Jana Abrams works with Kathy Smith who is the director of Carbon County Tourism.

But being a country girl from eastern Utah she didn't like the big city so much because "about all the outdoor things we got to do was play badminton."

So she came back home and went to work for Sheldon Hansen Chevrolet as a secretary for a number of years. Later she became the city treasurer for Wellington, then the recorder and finally the city manager for a few years.

"Then the bottom fell out of the coal market and the city didn't need a manager during that hard time and I was looking for a job," she stated.

She found one. She became the general manager of the Days Inn (now Holiday Inn) and worked there for 14 years. It was her first job dealing with tourism and she learned a lot from it but hated the stress of managing 75 employees and a property worth millions of dollars 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

She left that position and took a few years off before coming to the travel bureau.

"I love it here because of the things I get to do and the people I get to meet and talk too," she said. "It's interesting every day."

Kathy Smith, her boss, sees her as an integral part of the travel bureau, one she couldn't do without. Abrams has many duties with her main ones including taking care of accounts receivables, accounts payables and handling the areas event calendar.

As the years have gone by the travel bureau has grown more busy.

"Just in the last week and a half we have sent out over 500 packets to prospective tourists who have requested them," said Abrams. "People are becoming more and more interested in our area and what we have to offer."

Then there is Ricki Palmer. She has a different kind of administrative assistants job.

Palmer began working at Petersen Elementary in 1992 and found her true calling as an elementary school secretary. While she had served the cities of East Carbon and Sunnyside in many other capacities it is her work at Petersen that has been greasing the wheel of local education for the past 15 years.

"Ricki is the glue that binds the whole school together," said Petersen Elementary Principal Melissa Hamilton. "She is a bright shining star that lifts the spirit of everyone around her, she is wonderful for these kids."

Ricki has lived in the community for 51 years and recounted fondly that her parents bought one of the very first houses in the A-section portion of East Carbon.

Palmer graduated from East Carbon High School in 1974 and considers the schools closing to be a sore spot.

"The new elementary going up makes me feel a lot better about things," said Palmer. "I take a great amount of pride in being the last school secretary at Petersen and the first at Bruin Point Elementary."

Palmer's responsibilities at the school include but are not limited to handling student problems, doing both accounts payable and receivable work, payroll and administrative support.

Sandra McManus goes over some things with Michelle Barker, a counselor tech at Voc Rehab.

"I really feel like the school's mother on most days," laughed Palmer.

And being a mother is something Ricki knows a lot about. Her and her husband Jeff, who is the safety supervisor for UtahAmerican Energy, have four daughters, Lindsay, Taylor, KyLeigh and Halyn.

"I couldn't be prouder of my girls," said Palmer. "They still call me every morning to let me know what is going on in their lives."

Before joining the school Palmer served on the East Carbon City council for 10 years and under four different mayors. It was a job that she says got her ready for all the multitasking she does at the school.

"I can't imagine running this school without her," concluded Hamilton. "Her spirit makes this place run."

In another place in the county, a place that a lot of people know, Sandra McManus works as a long time secretary taking care of people.

The face of McManus is one that is familiar to many in the Castle Country area. And it is a face those she helps are always happy to see. McManus has served Carbon County residents with vocational training needs for more that 30 years as the district executive secretary for the State Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.

"She knows her job better than anyone in the state," said Eastern Utah District Director, Carol Rogers. "As an executive secretary and a fiscal manager there is no one better in the whole of Utah."

McManus started with the agency in 1975 doing dictation and case management and slowly worked into the position she now thrives in.

"Working with the clients is the best part of my job; it's what keeps me working," said McManus. "We provide a service here that really makes a difference in peoples lives and that matters to me."

As district administrative secretary McManus is responsible for fiscal management both of her case load and the over site of all other case loads in the district. She also handles many administrative responsibilities while generally managing the Price office.

"The most wonderful thing about Sandra is that when I need something done it gets done, quickly, neatly and thoroughly. I never have to go back and check her work. Also Sandra provides a great resource for all secretaries in the district with her knowledge of the program," stated Rogers. "She has a very large fiscal responsibility and she manages that very well."

Before working for Rogers, Sandra served under Karl F. Kraync who was acting director for 30 years.

"When Mrs. Mac and I were working together she was the heart and soul of the whole district. She made sure everything always ran as it should. And she cared. She cared about the program and the clients," commented Kraync.

According to McManus it is the ability to help someone get back on their feet that allows her to have pride in what she does.

"Helping someone to succeed is what matters most to me," she concluded.

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