I am officially a senior citizen. I have an AARP membership. I should be basking in the sun on the beach in Aruba or playing the slots in Las Vegas.
Instead, I am in charge of one of the largest Social Services agencies in the nation, overseeing Employee Services (our new, fancy name for HR) and many other things for 1200 employees and social services benefits for close to 150,000 active clients, after 40+ years as a career public servant. Along the way, I have been the “first” this, “first” that, “only” this, and “only” that … Still am sometimes.
It has been, as Paul McCartney said, “a long and winding road”.
Why am I still working? Because I believe I make a difference in people’s lives. I believe that if I bless you, I have blessed myself. If I help you, I have helped myself. The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”. I believe I can help the world, one person at a time.
I am a linguist. I fell in love with all things Hispanic at the age of 13. My degree is in Spanish. I also speak French … a little German … and a lot of profanity. I love people and their diversity. I’ve been “different” all my life and I celebrate the individuality of people and their life stories. I know words can bring us together or tear us apart, start wars or bring world peace, harm or heal. What better place to communicate than in HR — where people’s lives and livelihoods are within your oversight … where secrets are shared and kept … where you can coach and teach and learn something new every day about yourself and people…
Along the way, I’ve become a resident expert in Disciplinary Action, Performance Appraisal, Equal Opportunity, Staff Development, and Labor Relations. I’ve learned that discipline is a last, painful resort. That most people have no self-awareness regarding their performance. That we should use every opportunity to create a teaching moment, and that there is usually one alternative to every circumstance.
In 40 years, I’ve welcomed new babies — and in later years, I’ve hired them. I’ve made lifelong friends — and said farewell far too many times. I have let people go who didn’t fit — and have mentored those with potential. Along the way, I’ve met three people I truly disliked. I blessed them, too.
I will retire. Moses took 40 years and only glimpsed the Promised Land. He showed his people they could have more, be more, parted the Red Sea, and left! I have worn out my ears listening, enriched my soul with empathy, led with wisdom and compassion, and hopefully, blazed a path which others can follow.
I can leave confident that I have helped many people, along the way.
This post was written by Yvonne Davis. Yvonne is currently the Director of Welfare and Chief of Personnel & Labor Relations for the Essex County Department of Citizen Services in New Jersey. It is the largest welfare agency in the State of New Jersey, and one of the Top 10 largest Welfare agencies in the United States. She is an alumna of Montclair State University, with a degree in Spanish and a minor in Education of the Disadvantaged and a Concentration in French. She also has professional certifications from Kean University and Rutgers University in Public Management, Affirmative Action, and EEOC Studies.
Yvonne has been recognized in Who’s Who in America , Who’s Who in American Women, and Who’s Who in New Jersey. She is a recipient of the Patriotic Service Award for the United States Department of the Treasury. She is a 3-time recipient of the Medallion of Excellence from the America Association of Teachers. She is a 7-time recipient of the Volunteer Award from the United Way.
Yvonne is also a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter and a sister. Her parents and 2 younger brothers are also current and lifelong residents of Essex County. Her husband of over 40 years grew up in the central ward of Newark, and his father and siblings still live in Essex County. Together, they have 3 children and 6 grandchildren.
Connect with her on Linked In.