Cheryl Fisher is the longest, tenured employee of the Smith County Juvenile Services Department, having joined it shortly after its inception.
On Tuesday, July 26, she was recognized by the Smith County Commissioners Court for 30 years of service to the county.
Juvenile Services Director Ross Worley said his longest employee is a hard worker, a great professional and a wonderful friend. “Every day you’re with us, you’re setting a record,” he told her.
Ms. Fisher said she has seen a lot of positive changes in the 30 years she has worked for Juvenile Services -- from moving to a new facility with more room and more staff, to new programs being implemented to better help the kids going through the court system.
“There’s been a lot of positive changes, and I’m sure there will be more to come,” she said. “We’re trying to help these kids. We’re just living and learning.”
Ms. Fisher said working with the children is what she likes most about her job. “We all make mistakes but a kid’s mind is still open,” she said. “You can choose to start right here and never come back … They can never say no one tried to help them.”
She earned a degree in criminal justice from The University of Texas at Arlington and took a part-time job at Juvenile Services as an intake officer in 1985. When a full-time position opened up the following year, she took it. In 1993, Ms. Fisher became a counselor, moving up to lead counselor three years later. She has been a Juvenile Probation Officer since 1999.
Throughout her career, she has seen several kids turn their lives around and they sometimes stop her while she’s out in the community. “Seeing them is a blessing because it means they didn’t end up in the pen and they didn’t keep on down that road,” she said.
Ms. Fisher takes the time to listen to the kids to hear their side of the story instead of screaming at them for doing wrong. “My big thing is, you show respect, you get respect,” she said.
After three decades, Ms. Fisher has no plans to retire, and said she likes the flexibility her job offers.
“We work as a team here,” she said. “We help each other out.”
Patti Simmons has seen more than one generation of juveniles go through the court system during her 25-year Smith County career.
“I do like working with juveniles,” Ms. Simmons said. “I have really grown a love for that.”
Ms. Simmons was recognized by the Commissioners Court for 25 years of service to Smith County.
Laurita Vodak works as a court coordinator for County Court-at-Law No. 3 Judge Floyd Getz with Ms. Simmons and said she has been blessed to work with her for more than 17 years. “You are like a sister to me,” she said. “I’m so thankful I’ve gotten to work with you.”
Ms. Simmons began working for Smith County in the District Clerk’s Office in 1991. She was quickly recruited to work as a clerk for the late 321st District Judge Ruth Blake, for whom she worked seven years. After the judge’s retirement, Ms. Simmons went to work for Judge Getz as his juvenile court coordinator, a position she has held for nearly 18 years.
She said what she likes most about her job here at Smith County is the co-worker fellowship, the employee benefits and serving the public. “Honestly, I am just so grateful,” she said. “We have so many benefits other people don’t receive, and I am just so thankful.
After 25 years at Smith County, Ms. Simmons said she has no plans to retire.
“I’m turning that corner, but I’m still going to hang in there for a while,” she said.
Vicki Dunn, court coordinator for the 321st District Court, was recognized for 20 years of service to Smith County. She was not present in court on Tuesday.
Mrs. Dunn worked as a flight attendant, dental assistant and in her husband, Tom Dunn’s law office, before he became County Court-at-Law Judge. She then went to work for Smith County, taking a court coordinator position for the late Judge Ruth Blake. About two years later, she went to work for then District Attorney Jack Skeen as his felony secretary. When 321st District Judge Carole Clark was first elected in 1999, Mrs. Dunn became one of her court coordinators.
“It’s like a second family when you work here,” Mrs. Dunn said of what she likes most about her job. “Judge Clark has been a wonderful person to work for.”
When Mrs. Dunn was in a serious car wreck in 2005, Judge Clark held her position for her while she recovered for more than three months.
Working for a family law court, she enjoys playing a role in helping people solve problems.
Mrs. Dunn plans to hold off on joining her husband in retirement until Judge Clark decides to retire, she said. “I’ve enjoyed working for Smith County,” she said.
Mandy Zehren, supervisor for Adult Probation, recognized Supervision Officers Tiffany Carpenter and Eric Liptak for 10 years of service to the county.
She said Ms. Carpenter started working in the jail in 2006 while earning degrees at Tyler Junior College and The University of Texas at Tyler. She went to work for the probation department in 2013 and is now supervising child support offenders while earning a master’s degree.
Liptak worked for the Sheriff’s Office for five years, Tyler Police for 21 years and Child Protective Services before coming to work for Adult Probation 10 years ago.
Tax Assessor-Collector Gary Barber recognized Cindy Villalobos for five years of work. He said she is a loyal and dependable employee who works on the front lines with the taxpayers, as well as with bankruptcy accounts.
The following employees are also being recognized this month 2016 for their years of dedicated service to the citizens of Smith County.
15 Years: Elena Glasscock, County Clerk; Karolyn Chronister, Sheriff’s Department.
10 Years: Brenda Folmar, County Clerk; Yolanda Mims, Juvenile Services; and Bobbie Maxey, Sheriff’s Department.
5 Years: Veronica Arteaga, County Clerk; Sheila Parker, District Attorney’s Office; Jeremy Sides, Road and Bridge Department; Duane Beddingfield and Elise Mahoney, Sheriff’s Department