Lufkin’s City Secretary: It’s not goodbye, just ‘See you later’

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - After 34 years, 3 mayors and 3 city managers Renee Thompson is bidding farewell to city government.  Thompson is retiring.

Tuesday afternoon she was showered with gifts, well wishes, and plenty of wisecracks as co-workers, family, and friends reminisced about her career.  She began her career as a secretary at the Parks and Recreation Department.

"I was 19 and it was just a job that became my life," said Thompson.  "I was able to meet a lot of people.  Their children took part in gymnastics and karate and things like that and I was able to watch them grow up and I see them now as adults.  Then I moved to the Civic Center and I was able to be part of a lot of parties and events and met lots of really interesting people.  Don Hannabas was my mentor.  I worked at Parks and Recreation for 27 years and then 7 years at the Civic Center (Lufkin Pitser Garrison Civic Center) before they hired me as city secretary."

Thompson said she had her most profound experience on the job while working as Director for the Civic Center- working through the Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster in February 2003.  That is when the returning Columbia broke apart in the skies over East Texas, killing all seven crew members aboard.  Debris from the disaster was scattered across parts of Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas.  "The Civic Center was headquarters and command center for much of the search team.  I met a lot of really wonderful people and I'm still friends with people from NASA.  After I did that and had that opportunity I felt like I was ready for something else, something more exciting.  Sometimes you better be careful what you ask for."

As one of his first acts as city manager, Paul Parker hired Thompson as city secretary in 2004.  "This job is challenging, but it's a wonderful job because you get to see every part of the city's workings," said Thompson.

Kara Atwood, who was the administrative assistant for the city manager will now assume the duties of city secretary.  "Wow, lots of patience and just be prepared to work long hours.  Advice?  Get to know all of your council members well, and rely on other departments because we're only as good as the people who work around us," said Thompson.

Thompson says she has enough work at home to last three years.  Her immediate plans are to reward herself and her husband with a trip to Hawaii.  She says it will be the people that she will miss most, "Friends, lots of friendships here."

Tuesday afternoon Parker replaced Thompson's keys to city hall with a key to the city and Mayor Jack Gorden proclaimed the day 'City Secretary Renee Thompson Day.'

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