PALMDALE — Dawn Deans’ title of “executive assistant” doesn’t quite cover all she’s done at the Palmdale Water District during her 35-year career, but it is the title she is passing on with her retirement, at the end of the month.
Deans was the first person at the District with the title, and she has served seven general managers and 26 Board members during her tenure.
Nearly a Valley native — her family moved here when she was 5 — Deans was always thankful for the job, “but you never really plan on staying for 35 years,” she said.
“I like what I do. I’m comfortable with this.”
“Dawn is a great example of what a public servant is supposed to be: professional, personable, and dedicated to doing the best job possible for our customers,” General Manager Dennis LaMoreaux said via email. “A lot of things about PWD have changed during her career here. However, she has been a constant, positive force. She will be missed.”
Deans’ career began almost by accident. Right out of Palmdale High School, she was recommended by her business teacher for a job with a local civil engineer who was looking for someone with shorthand and typing skills.
The engineer, Lowell Felt, did a lot work with Palmdale Water District in the building boom of the 1980s, so Deans was familiar with the District and many of the employees. Seven years after Deans joined his firm, Felt became the District’s general manager, bringing her along with him.
“He was so used to the way I did things, he created the executive secretary position,” she said. “I didn’t even interview.”
Initially, the job involved working in customer service, but it shifted when Felt needed additional help.
“He was frustrated I was always at the counter helping customers,” Deans said.
Her role has changed over the years, as different tasks were added to or subtracted from her job, “whatever the need is at the time.” Today, she described her role as a cross between a city clerk and an executive assistant, working with the Board of Directors and the general manager.
Deans describes her job as making the District as well as the managers look good.
“I like doing that. I like being behind the scenes helping people fix things,” she said. “I just like helping people.”
From the start, Deans has been in charge of the Board of Directors: setting briefings and committee meetings, producing agendas, recording minutes, ensuring Brown Act requirements are met, and acting as a liaison between the Board and the staff.
“I like developing those relationships,” she said. “If they need help with anything, they come to me.”
For much of that time, Deans took detailed meeting notes in shorthand, a skill that is not frequently seen, today. The Board began recording their meetings, in 2008, and she now writes minutes from the recordings.
In the past, Deans also produced both the employee and customer newsletters, and helped develop the District’s educational water conservation outreach efforts. This includes creation of Aqua Dog, the District’s mascot, which would visit schools to help spread awareness of water conservation.
Deans would participate in skits as “Grandma,” a water-waster who would learn from Aqua Dog how to conserve.
Among the many legacies Deans leaves behind is the system of record-keeping she began, when files were all hard copies in cabinets, produced on typewriters. Now, everything is scanned into computers.
“But whenever somebody wants to find something, they ask (me),” Deans said.
The transition to computers and electronic records is one of the biggest changes Deans has seen during her tenure, beginning with an introduction to WordPerfect with a three-inch-thick manual.
“Everything these days is computerized,” she said.
“It changed tremendously,” Deans said of the District during her three decades there.
For one, the staff has grown from about 30 to 35 employees to nearly 90, today, the main offices moved to a new building next door and, of course, the customer base has grown with Palmdale’s population.
With her retirement, on Jan. 30, Deans is passing the torch to current management analyst Danielle Henry, who has been taking on some of the Board-related tasks in transition.
Deans plans to enjoy time with her family, now that her free time isn’t tied to working around Board meetings.
Even with the schedule limitations, Deans is grateful for a job that did provide some flexibility while raising her daughter, as she could leave for school functions and the like, working so close to home.
“It’s been really a great opportunity for me. I feel blessed to have been here this long,” she said.
I know Palmdale Water has always ran smoothly....Let's hope it continues. Let's hope Mrs. Dean has a long Happy retirement....Sounds like she has earned it.
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