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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Week honors ones who 'hold office together'

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Rhonda Council, administrative assistant of the Department of Government Services for Sikeston, works on a project.
SIKESTON -- From screening phone calls to putting together the packets for the Sikeston R-6 Board of Education meetings, Pam Tibbs does a little bit of everything as administrative secretary to the superintendent Steve Borgsmiller.

"We are the liaison between public and administrators," Tibbs said about secretaries.

Like many, Tibbs tends to agree with the saying "secretaries are the glue that hold the office together."

"If it weren't for the secretaries, a lot of things wouldn't get done as timely as they do," Tibbs said.

In the midst of Administrative Professionals Week, administrative assistants/secretaries to some of the Sikeston's most prominent officials took some time to discuss daily responsibilities and what it means to work in their field.

Today, there are more than 4.1 million secretaries and administrative assistants working in the United States, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, and 8.9 million people working in various administrative support roles.

As administrative assistant of the department of governmental services for Sikeston, Rhonda Council admits her tasks vary from day to day.

Council said she works primarily for City Manager Doug Friend and Director of Governmental Services Linda Lowes, but she also works for Mayor Mike Marshall and the City Council members.

"Most of my direct work does come from Linda," Council said. "I set up appointments and schedule proclamations. If anyone wants the Mayor or a city council member to speak at events, I schedule that."

Council gets agendas ready for City Council meetings and makes sure everything is set up for that.

And Rhonda Menz, quality management administrative assistant at Missouri Delta Medical Center, takes minutes at medical staff meetings and sees that the information flows where it's supposed to go long after the meeting is over.

"Once I missed a meeting, and it was like missing a chapter of a book," Menz explained. "I had to find out what happened."

Taking minutes isn't just a matter of writing every word verbatim, Menz assured. "I have to sit down and prioritize, develop and condense them," she said. "I have to put those minutes in a format that can be followed and easily read, yet maintain an appropriate amount of detail, which takes skill and experience to do."

In her position, Menz also maintains an on-going agenda for the medical staff meetings at Missouri Delta and keeps track of issues that need to be discussed. She schedules the items into the committees these need to be in and forwards the information to the next level until they are finalized and completed.

Administrative secretaries must also deal with public relations, such as talking to the customers, who are the parents in a school's case, Tibbs pointed out.

"We are always nice and friendly," Tibbs noted. "Occasionally we have upset parents that come into the office and we do our best to calm them down before they see the administrators."

Of course the clerical work is still there such as letter typing and mass mailings, but secretaries and other administrative professionals are taking on other nontraditional responsibilities like Internet researching, preparing presentations and maintaining Web sites.

Council, for one, said she does know how to do back up for the city's Web master, Kris Greene.

All women agreed one of the most enjoyable aspects of their jobs is dealing with the public.

"It varies so much," Council said. "I never know what question or problem may arise -- and I may not be able to solve it, but at least I can direct them to someone who can help them."

Tibbs said she likes the fact that she doesn't have to do the same thing over and over again with her job.

"Although I do the same things, I have a variety of things to do to keep busy. If my eyes get tired typing, I can turn around and do something different," Tibbs pointed out.

Perhaps Tibbs summed it up the job the best. "We're kind of like a buffer."