Sharon Meier’s laughter, kindness and smiling face has greeted customers who walk through the Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department’s office door in for the better part of two decades.
On Oct. 21, however, Meier and her husband Bill will be starting a 10-day drive to Juneau, AK – that’s right, Alaska! – where they will embark on a life-changing journey while leaving behind family, friends, colleagues and a job Meier loves.
For 18 years, Meier has been an administrative assistant for the Parks and Recreation Department. An opportunity to move to Alaska was too difficult to pass by.
"We’ve been talking about it for quite some time. In the last six years, we’ve traveled there five times," said Meier, whose final day with the department was Thursday. "One of the last times we were up there, we looked at each other and said this is a place we'd like to spend some time in, and the only way to do that was to ‘retire’ there."
Bill found a job as a maintenance technician for Siemens and has been living in a Juneau condominium since May. The couple sold their home and Bill's parents’ home in September, expediting the move to Alaska's capital, much to the chagrin of Parks and Recreation Director Scott Jaquish.
"She’s always been the glue that held us together," said Jaquish, who has worked with Meier for 13 years. "She’s the longest-tenured person in the office and has seen how the department has grown in complexity. She’s always been the mainstay, the rock. ... She's been a great ambassador for the department."
Jaquish said Meier's career will be honored in two distinct ways in upcoming months. She will be inducted as the department's newest hall-of-fame member at a banquet in February and will have a tree planted in her name by the Partners of Parks and Recreation at one of the city's parks.
"Professionally, it goes without saying how much she'll be missed. She knows so much," Jaquish said. "I can't say enough how important she has been to our department, to our growth."
Meier's Alaskan condo is straddled by mountains and the ocean in a city roughly the size of Greenfield in terms of population but landlocked and accessible only by air or sea.
"It’s pretty exciting, and we said if we don’t do it, we’re going to regret it," Meier said. “We’re going there to see what it has to offer, and that Bill has a job is even better. And I’ll eventually get something too, but I’m going to take some time off.”
And when she does find another job, Meier has a pretty good idea what she’ll be looking for. It’s the same thing she knows she’ll miss the most when leaving Greenfield behind.
“Laughter. I laugh every day at my job,” Meier said. “I’m going to miss the customers, some of whom have become friends of min, even though I’m on one side of the counter and they are on the other.
“This department sells the city. We really do. We get to do the fun things. We don’t collect taxes or give flu shots. I’m going to miss the people I work with because they have become my close friends."