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Parker leaving city hall after 38 years

Just exactly how much work Carolyn Parker does as city clerk is best summed up by the fact that it will take four people to divide up her current duties. Her spacious office is filled with boxes of paperwork involving 25 accounts she maintains manually. In another corner is a still-operable IBM Selectric typewriter that she used to write checks when she first went to work for the city in 1980. ’That’s not my original typewriter but a refurbished one Jason Shirey found for me,’ Parker said referring to the late assistant city manager Jason Shirey. Parker is retiring at the end of the month after 38 years with the city. Prior to that she spent 11 years at Carter’s in the data processing department. ‘˜J.U Little hired me out there,’ she recalled. She started out at city hall as a bookkeeper and billing clerk and moved steadily up the ladder, becoming city clerk in 1993. Tammy Folson will follow her as clerk, handling council meetings, records and business licenses and serving as the qualifying officer for elections. Niki Sappington will take over credit card processing and council member training. Tammy York will take over accounting. ‘She has an accounting degree and that’s good. A lot of what I have done has involved accounting,’ Parker said. Tim Turner will assume her role in handling reporting for the Department of Community Affairs certified city program. Parker grew up in Barnesville, the daughter of Ed and Erline Shockley. She attended Gordon High and Gordon Military College before heading to work at Carter’s. Data processing at the mill was primitive by today’s standards but the experience served her well at city hall. ‘When I first got here, the only computer system used the old IBM punch cards. Things have really changed,’ Parker said. She has worked under three mayors – Jimmy Matthews, the late Dewaine Bell and Peter Banks – and numerous council members but always managed to keep the peace. ’I have always respected their roles. I have always gotten along with all of them. I always tried to work to make things easier for them,’ Parker said. That often found her walking a tightrope as she oversaw city elections for many years, dealing with qualifying, maintaining voter lists and conducting elections and runoffs. ’When I first got here, I maintained the voter list by hand. We had those big old voting machines that we had to drag around everywhere but they were accurate. I was so glad when Kathy Martin became probate judge and moved toward the elections board. Elections were the biggest headache I had. We just have to do qualifying now,’ she related. Observing elections up close made her appreciate the fact that every vote counts. A city referendum on liquor by the drink passed by one vote. One city council race was decided by two votes and another by eight. ‘People need to know that their vote does count,’ Parker reiterated. She is proud of the many projects accomplished during her tenure, particularly the renovation of old city hall. The area where her office is now was ‘just a mess’ before that project began. Another was the construction of the civic center and city pool, both of which have been heavily used since opened. ‘We also removed substandard housing and built the new police station,’ she added. There were also two streetscape projects funded through DOT grants that changed the face of downtown and gave birth to Depot Plaza. The latest such project resulted in Summers Field Park, now a centerpiece of life in Barnesville. Ritz Park was another vast improvement though the Town of Aldora funded much of that. ‘The old theatre was in bad shape and there was a lot of talk about rehabbing it. Some people actually toured it with such a project in mind and then the next day the roof fell in and it was just too far gone but now we have a lovely park in its place,’ Parker said. In just seven months spanning the retirement and subsequent death of longtime city manager Kenny Roberts and Parker’s retirement, city hall will have lost 85 years of top-level management experience. Parker is quick to point out that David Rose, who succeeded Roberts, has been on the job 35 years. Still there will be a void and she has been training her successors. ’I was born here. I was raised here. All of my life I have been working here. I have never lived more than a quarter mile from city hall. I have always been very blessed. There is a great family here – a family full of great people,’ Parker added. Her husband, Alan, retired three years ago. Their son, Reshard, is a mechanical engineer in Canton. Daughter Suzanne works at the sheriff’s office and is married to Barnesville police chief Craig Cooper. They have four grandchildren and four-great-grandchildren whom she plans to babysit when they are not traveling. ’I am going to miss all the good people here, especially Evelyn Neal and Bereatha Napier. The city is in good hands. They know they can reach out and I will be glad to help’ Parker concluded. After all, she will be only a quarter of a mile away.

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