A good boss. One might miss not notice it when you have one but without one, the difference is keenly felt. With the exception of one, I think I have been uncommonly lucky.
Being in and out of the workforce raising my children I, perhaps, have had fewer bosses than others my age. There was my first job as a sales associate for San Joaquin Religious Goods, a Catholic bookstore now owned by Cotter Church Supplies. The manger was professional, consistent, took confidence with her employees but only about business, never her personal life. I was trained by a woman who refused to show me how to use the cash register to show the change due. Instead, I must learn to count back money. I left upon my high school graduation.
In college locally, I worked evenings at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, the after-hours shift when much of the staff has gone home but receptionists remain to usher in meeting and appointment attendees and answer phone calls. Like many church jobs, one dives right in and learns as you go, including in my case, Spanish. Supervision was hands-off and the job was low-key, low-ambition.
Transferring to the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota I worked for the university catering company. There my boss was ambitious, and often frustrated by the university system. He vented his frustrations. It was a full-time coworker who trained the new hires, made the hours pleasant and built camaraderie among employees.
Another state, another job, another boss
Another boss made example of his employees and said he would be like a coach, which I think, to him meant cussing at us when he was angry and had himself to blame overbooked events.
Another state, another job, another boss, we went shopping at Williams-Sonoma and Old Town Alexandria, Virginia to welcome committees to the school and plan events. I set tables, built menus, arranged gift baskets and assembled many a cheese platter in those days.
Another state, another job, another boss and I received the best training in my life, the greatest encouragement of an employee’s rights, family balance and self-respect. Though I stopped working for the Center for Human Services four years ago, it remains part of who I am in my perception of what a business and non-profit could and should be like, how employees should be treated, what place a job has in the big scheme of things, and how good it all can be.
That experience continued when I began freelancing for MidValley Publications under Wendy Krier, editor of many papers including this one. It was my first steady writing gig. Granted, I am a freelancer, but beginning this job when our family’s life was still chaotic, Wendy made allowances, making it clear that it was good that I should put family first when guilt might have tempted me otherwise. She corrected me as needed and passed on the praise when it came from people happy to see their story shared in the paper.
For a time, we met weekly to review upcoming stories, for me to ask questions, for her to share more about the newspaper business. She watched me go from rookie to published author, finding my voice and my place in the Hughson community. I watched her navigate the work of many newspapers, and ultimately find a way to pursue her dream of living somewhere green, with seasons, in Minnesota.
A Fond Farewell
So it is with bitter sweetness that I say goodbye to another great boss as Wendy moves on to her next venture to edit a small-town newspaper in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
The newspaper world is layered with its roles. From stringer (me, a freelancers) to editors to sales to the man on top, the publisher. Given the nature of my work, it was to the editor I reported.
And Wendy taught me the ropes. Those individuals who initiate us into new fields, show us the way, train us to do our best in that line of work, become a part of our story in a way all those following can not. I will be holding onto those memories of Wednesday meetings filled with calendars, emails, events, laughter and (a little) gossip.
By working for this publication I learned what the town of Hughson is, the stuff its people are made of, and I learned to share their stories and celebrate their successes. Here’s to you, Wendy, my editor and friend: to your next venture and ours!