Rector city administrator retiring after 21 years

Thursday, May 3, 2012
Betty Benson with mayor David Freeman and co-workers Todd Watson and Kim Romine

Water department clerk, office manager, city administrative assistant, grant writer and budget coordinator -- these are just a few of the hats Betty Benson has successfully worn for the city of Rector over the last 21 years.

Within a few short weeks, Betty will join the ranks of retirees after a long and successful career with the city, and she will undoubtedly be sorely missed by many.

During the recent Chamber of Commerce banquet in Rector, mayor David Freeman honored Betty as a "great example of why Rector is such a great place to live" with her long and successful tenure in service to the city.

In 1991, with her husband, Bill, working as a full-time jailer for the Clay County jail system and her children having flown the nest, Benson wanted something to keep her busy. So she applied for work with the city as a part-time water department clerk.

Over the years her duties expanded from clerk to water department office manager and, in 1998, she became the administrative assistant for the city of Rector, working both in a full-time and part-time capacity.

Multi-talented Benson became the go-to person for city financial administration and grant writing in particular.

"I learned how to write grants by trial and error," Benson says. Over the years, she obtained grants for a number of city improvements and projects.

Cyndi Corkran, former community development director for Rector, reflected on how Benson helped her in Corkran's new and uncharted position.

"Betty's experience and knowledge taught me so much, especially during the grant writing process and application for the 501(c)3 designation of the Rector Downtown Network. If she didn't know the answers to my many questions, she would quickly set out to find them. However, most of all, my deep respect for her is in her warmth, her humor, and her gentle and genuine kindness toward others," Corkran said.

In addition to administering the grant for the restoration of the old jail, now the Rector Visitors Center, Benson's grant writing efforts have resulted in new restrooms, a children's play area and ballfield lighting for Rector Memorial Park, as well as two new police vehicles for the city's police force.

She also has been the budget administrator for the Northeast Arkansas Innovative Training Center (NEAITC), the Chamber of Commerce and the Veterans Memorial Park.

Her years of work for the city have seen their share of trials, including her grant applications which were "always challenging in meeting the criteria and wording," according to Benson. The yearly state audits of the city's finances, with their "exacting preparation, answering the auditor's questions satisfactorily and making the numbers work, were an additional challenge," noted Benson.

When asked what she liked best about her years with the city, Benson said, "It all comes down to the people I have worked with and have had contact with over the years. My best memories of working for the city always come back to the people I work with and see every day, through the happy times and sad ones.

"I have gotten to know and made friends with so many people over the years from folks coming in to pay their water bills, and through the years, I have worked with many wonderful people. I have a lot of respect and love for my co-workers."

Thinking back on some of her fondest memories, many occasions come to mind, like Rector Labor Days, office lunches, and the opening reception of the Rector Visitors Center.

"One of my most cherished memories involved a Labor Day in the late 90's when I had successfully completed the application to get Rector designated as an Arkansas City of Excellence (ACE). In obtaining that classification for Rector, I was honored at that year's Labor Day picnic with a standing ovation. That will be something I will always remember," she said.

Benson has been through three city administrations during her 21 years, including working under mayors Reuben Seay, Ron Kemp and David Freeman.

"They have all been wonderful to work under, but I had more years with Ron than any other mayor and, along with being great to work for, we also became friends," she said.

"Betty was great to work with during my tenure as mayor," Kemp said. "She was always a very responsible steward of the city's business. The citizens of Rector owe her much gratitude for the many successful grant applications she submitted for the city. I really enjoyed working with her in our efforts to complete numerous major improvement projects for the community."

Although she soon will be officially retired from the city, Benson will continue to be the budget administrator for the new Veterans Memorial Park in Rector, a cause which is close to her heart.

Upon her retirement, Benson plans to remain in the Rector community and spend more time with her family, which includes husband Bill, son Brad, who lives in the Blue Cane community, son Bart and his wife Kat from Marion, and son Bruce and his wife Lavonda, who live in Paragould with their daughters Chelsea, Breanna and Madison.

Benson and her husband also plan to take short trips to visit old friends residing in St. Louis, where Betty was raised and spent 34 years of her life, and just "do more things I have not had time to do over the years," she says.

Thinking back over all her city work these past 21 years, Benson reflects, "I loved my job and the people I've worked with; they were not only my co-workers, but also my friends, and when I've needed them they were there. I have been very fortunate. Not too many people can say they loved their co-workers, as well as their job. The city of Rector has been so good to me and it has been a wonderful place to work. I hope to see good things happen for the city of Rector in the future!"

A drop-in reception for Benson is in the planning stages and will be announced as soon as plans are finalized.

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