- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

EFFINGHAM, Ill. (AP) - The date was March 30, 1964.

America was still grieving the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Vietnam was just starting to show up on the minds of the American people.

The St. Louis Cardinals were getting ready to begin another National League season - one that would end with the team’s first World Series title since 1946.

Oh, and a recent Dieterich High School graduate named Becky Poynter began work as a secretary at what was then known as the Effingham County Office of Education.

Over the years, another Kennedy was shot; American troops stayed in Vietnam for more than a decade; and the Cardinals won a few more world championships.

Becky Poynter eventually became Becky Bailey and Effingham County was forced to merge its education office with those in Bond and Fayette counties.

Bailey has continued in what has become the Regional Office of Education, doing much the same things - albeit in different ways - that she did when she started.

“Everybody knows I don’t like change,” Bailey said. “Giving this up would be a big change.”

Bailey celebrated her 50th anniversary in the office on March 30. She is believed to be the only person to ever be employed by the county for that long. On April 21, the Effingham County Board presented her with a nameplate that notes her long tenure.

Bailey will be the first to say she didn’t expect to be working the same job for five decades. Like many young women of her generation, she thought her future was in the home.

“I figured I’d get married and raise a family and stay home,” she said. “But I never did.”

While she did marry Jim Bailey on Nov. 24, 1971 and had a son, Craig, in late 1983, attitudes had changed, and it wasn’t unusual for the mother of a young child to work outside the home.

“I’d been at it so long by then, I decided to stay,” she said. “I was hooked.”

Bailey said she had trouble finding a job after graduating from high school. After spending that summer and fall helping dad Emmit on the family farm near Eberle, young Becky got a job for the holidays at the former G.C. Murphy store in downtown Effingham.

Little did she know that Doyne Winterrowd, one of her teachers at DHS, had recommended her to County Superintendent of Schools Lowell Lewis.

“One day, Lowell Lewis walked in and asked me if I wanted to come to work for him,” she recalled.

Bailey spent the first years of her career in the northwest corner of the first floor of the old Effingham County Courthouse. By the early 1980s, however, the county had bought the old Benwood Hotel across the street and converted it into county office space.

For more than 30 years, then, she had been on the second floor of what is now the Effingham County Office Building.

Lewis was the first of five county or regional superintendents Bailey has assisted over the years.

The others have been James Staff, Delbert Maroon, Mark Drone and current Regional Superintendent Julie Wollerman.

Bailey said her tasks are much the same as they were in 1964.

“I answer phones, take messages, update teacher certification, issue school transcripts and GEDs,” she said. “I also receive paperwork for substitute teachers and issue work permits for kids under 16.

“None of that has changed very much.”

Bailey said the biggest change is that so much of her job is online, minimizing personal contact she used to have, especially with teachers. But she says the county building is still a pleasant place to work.

“I have worked with some of the girls in the county clerk’s office for more than 30 years,” she said. “I don’t see the teachers as much as I used to. I don’t even know the teachers anymore.”

Bailey said the impending 50th anniversary caused her to stay on past normal retirement age.

“I could leave today,” she said. “I never dreamed I’d work 50 years, but when I got close, I was determined to stay.”

Bailey said she’ll have to retire someday, but has no immediate plans to do so.

“Jim retired (from QuadGraphics) last year and I asked him if he wanted me to retire,” she said. “He said no. I think he likes his privacy during the day.”

The Baileys live on 15 acres southeast of Watson. They enjoy horses, mowing and gardening.

But they also have time to travel, as well as play with their 2-year-old granddaughter.

Bailey said she has no complaints about her career.

“I’ve had great bosses and great people to work with,” she said.


Online: Effingham Daily News, https://bit.ly/1ij5oUb


Information from: Effingham Daily News, https://www.effinghamdailynews.com

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