As I approached college graduation, my goal was to eventually become a boss with my own office where I could hang posters on the ceiling.
Seemingly lofty ambitions for a 22-year-old, it came to fruition much sooner than I anticipated. When John and I first moved to Eastern Oregon, I had hoped to collect unemployment benefits while adjusting to the land of sagebrush and sand.
With a college degree in hand and nearly four years of experience in the human services field, the door quickly opened at Betah House, a facility that provided residential and vocational services for adults with developmental disabilities. The interim executive director offered me a direct care job at the interview.
When the group home manager left a few months later, I was offered a promotion — I was 25. I promptly moved into the office and attached posters to the ceiling. When the board hired an executive director who only stayed a short while, I stepped into the interim capacity while they searched for a permanent replacement.
It was then that I learned that I didn’t want the buck to stop at my desk — I was perfectly content in a mid-level management position — or the “medium cheese,” as one of the residents called my role as the residential program manager.
Paula Smith had been talking to Suzanne Tosten, a group home manager, and referred to her as the “big cheese.” Suzanne explained to Paula that Candy Lukens was executive director, so that made her the big boss, and that Tammy (me) was the mid-level boss and that she (Suzanne) was under them. Paula quickly figured out the hierarchy.
“Oh, I get it, Candy is the big cheese, Tammy is the medium cheese and you’re the little cheese,” Paula said.
I appreciate the mentorship I received from Candy and several other bosses I’ve had over the years. I learned the most from Charlie Carnes, a program manager when I worked for Umatilla County.
A career Navy pilot turned alcohol and drug counselor, Charlie possessed an uncanny ability to rally the troops. He made each person feel like a valued part of the team.
In accordance with military tradition, Charlie gave each of us call signs. Due to my no-nonsense approaches and literal interpretations of things, mine was Terminator — after the role portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
After 20+ years in management and leadership capacities, I changed careers and began an entry-level job in the news industry. Several editors have worked patiently with me as I learned a more creative style.
In my early years with the newspaper, deputy managing editor Dave Sager heavily edited my “Dragnet” — “Just the facts, ma’am” Joe Friday — reporting on city council and county court meetings. Some of them were real snorers.
I’ll never forget when I finally got it. Dave said my description about problems Heppner was having with its city garbage service franchise was so vivid that he could actually see and smell the scene.
Today (Oct. 16) is National Boss’s Day — so, I tip my hat to Charlie Carnes, who was never afraid to work in the trenches, while also handing out compliments and supporting his team.