"I may be retired, but I won't be sitting still."

By CATHRYN CARTWRIGHT,

After working 30 years in various government agencies, Sandra Dew retired from the USDA Rural Development office in Yazoo City on Dec. 31.

Dew's history of hard work began in the 1970s, where she was employed in marketing for Mississippi Chemical Corporation in Yazoo City. It was Dew's connection to the chemical company that led to her first job working for the federal government in 1988, in the office of U.S. Rep. Mike Espy for the Second Congressional District in Mississippi.

"Back then Mike Espy's office was downtown where the old Bank of Yazoo City building is on the corner," Dew said. "Mississippi Chemical owned that building and the man who handled the leasing told Mike Espy about me."

Dew's work under Espy consisted of planning events, and attending speaking engagements with Espy. Dew also worked for Espy in his Madison County office for several years, until the day he was appointed as the United States Secretary of Agriculture under President Bill Clinton in 1993.

While Espy transitioned to his new job in Washington D.C., Dew applied and was transferred to the USDA Rural Development office in Yazoo City, which was then located on Jackson Avenue. 

Dew's new job as an area technician for Rural Development consisted of helping individuals secure financing from the government to buy single-family homes.  She said that back then the work was mostly done with typewriter on triplicate carbon paper.

"When I first came to this agency in 1993, you still typed your letters on a typewriter and you didnt do any word processing," Dew said. "Now it’s all on the computer and everything is so high tech."

Dew's work for the USDA led her to work in Madsion County again for about seven years until she was able to transfer back to Yazoo City  office on Wyeth Drive in 2004, where she has stayed ever since.

Her job duties grew over the last 14 years, making her responsible for more than just housing loan applications.

"I have been responsible for getting all of my vendors paid, that includes our surveyors and appraisers, and it’s all on the computer," she said. "And I have also come to know just about every lawyer, county supervisor, city alderman, and real estate agent in the county."

Dew said that the USDA Rural Development office has played an important role in the development in the city and the county, because their programs are designed to draw new people into the area, and help them set up a home where they can build their lives and invest their time and money into the community.

Dew's job also reached beyond the lines of Yazoo County, as she was also responsible for rural development in Humphreys, Sharkey, and Issaquena Counties as well.

Dew's combined efforts with others in the office of Rural Development have been recognized by state officials in the past, for helping get as many as 50 loans processed year after year in her area.

Dew said the thing she will miss the most about her job is the happiness she saw in the faces of her customers.

"That's what I am going to miss the most is seeing the smiles on all those faces," she said. "Some of our customers have never had a house or were living in a cramped apartment or just in deplorable conditions.  They are so excited to be able to have their own home, and be able to afford it and have a yard for their kids to play in, and that's why it is so rewarding to work here."

Dew said that over the years she and her coworkers have received many gracious gifts in thanks from several customers.

"I have had some of our customers come back to us with a cake or some muffins that they had cooking on their brand new stove," she said.

Dew said that while she is sad to leave her co-workers, some of over 25 years in the USDA Service Center, she is ready for a new adventure in retirement.

"I loved working for the federal government," she said. "The federal government has the best benefits in the world, and there are always opportunities for advancement."

Dew plans to spend her retirement by working in her garden among her many variety of flowers and plants, and also plans to become more involved in the community programs at First Baptist Church of Yazoo City where she is a member.

"I am also very excited about my cruise to the Bahamas given to me by my sons," she said. "And after that I plan to spend two weeks with my family in Texas at their lake house. I may be retired but I won't be sitting still."