By DAVID GREEN
Call her the Face of Fayette, because anyone walking into the village offices during the past 28 years was met with a smile from Dee (Potter) Lawrence.
"I was hired in September 1985 and Phil McKinney was hired in October," she said.
Dee served as tax administrator to handle the village income tax and also as utility clerk for water and sewer billing. Phil was the village clerk. That was back when Leonard Morr served as the village administrator—a much different time.
"We didn't have computers," Dee recalls. "We did everything by hand. I kept all the records in a big black book."
She remembers the day in 1991 when a computer was first brought into the office.
"There was just one computer that Phil and I had to share with [administrator] Dennis Richardson," she said. "All three of us had to take turns."
When the village office first got a fax machine, Dee was skeptical. "What in the world will we ever use that for?" she wondered.
Envelopes were labeled with an Addressograph machine. Postcards for billing were all written by hand.
"When I tell that to people today, they think I'm crazy," Dee said.
There's a job in the office that still requires the use of a typewriter and she was using it just recently when a much younger Fed Ex man stopped in for a delivery.
"Is that a typewriter?" he asked. "I've never seen one before."
There's no hesitation when asked what she most enjoyed about her job: the people.
"I loved being downtown and meeting with people," Dee said. "The village office was the place to go for information."
One of the most common questions: "What's the phone number for the library?" Fayette Library would have been easy to find in a phonebook, but Normal Memorial Library didn't register in the minds of many residents.
It wasn't just local citizens coming in to pay a water bill or to report a growing pothole, travelers often stopped in, also, when driving along U.S. 20.
"People would to stop in and tell me that they used to live here," she said.
Her most unpleasant task was ordering water to be shut off due to unpaid bills. "I hated to have to do that," she said.
What about the complainers?
"Most everybody could be defused," Dee said. "I would say, ‘Let's see what the problem is. We can figure this out.’"
The other village office staff members who took her place at the front desk when she was out knew that Dee had the best chair in the place. That chair is no longer there; it went to her home office. Eight or nine years ago when her son-in-law stopped by one day, he saw the old chair she had to use and he bought her a fancy new one. She wasn't about to leave that behind.
If her first week of retirement is any indication, non-working life will be every bit as busy as when she was in the office.
"Al and I haven't had a moment's peace," she said. “Remember that saying? Once you retire, you wonder how you had the time to work."