UNION — Except for a brief time following graduation from college, Katie Jenkins has spent her entire adult life working for the Union Housing Authority and now, after more than 40 years on the job, she’s retiring.
“I graduated from USC Union in 1969 and they (the UHA) were building Project 19 — 3, which was 120 units more than they had,” Jenkins said as she recalled the events that lead up to her being hired. “We had 150 units at the time and they added 120 more.”
Jenkins said she learned that the UHA would be hiring personnel to help with the administration of the new units and so she applied and was hired not long after she graduated from USC Union, but was unable to start work until 1970.
“I was aware they were hiring somebody when the new units were completed,” Jenkins said. “I knew I had the job in June of 1969, but construction was delayed and so I couldn’t be hired until the project was completed.”
The project was completed by the end of the year and Jenkins was hired Jan. 1, 1970, beginning a career with the UHA that has lasted 46 years, a career that will come to an end this week when she retires.
When Jenkins was first hired, she said she was “working the residents side of the business,” dealing with leases and other tenant-related issues. Jenkins continued in this capacity for the first couple of years of service with the UHA until an opening came in the position she would hold for the rest of her career.
“When I started Miss Ethel Palmer was here at the time and she was handling the finance side,” Jenkins said. “When she left I moved into the finance side and I’ve spent 44 years in finance.”
Jenkins, whose title is Assistant Director and Finance Administrator, has served under all of the four directors — Fred Cogdell, Randy Penland, Dennis Russell, and Robbie Littlejohn — the UHA has had in its existence. In that time she has also seen a number of changes at the UHA in terms of regulation, technology, the number of employees, and the growth of its responsibilities.
“When I started out we had only one maintenance person and there were only two ladies in the office,” Jenkins said. “Now we have 16 employees in all counting maintenance and office employees.”
The increase in the size of its staff reflects the increase in the number of properties it oversees. Jenkins said that when it began, in the 1960s, UHA had 120 units and now its has 615.
In addition to the increase in the number of units it manages and the number of personnel it employees, Jenkins said that, like the rest of the world, the UHA has experienced the computer revolution and the changes its brought to the workplace.
“When I first came we didn’t have computers, everything was done manually,” Jenkins said. “That’s changed.”
Other changes include the regulations the UHA has to deal with which Jenkins said are more detailed than when she began working there. She said that while the basic program of providing rental units to qualified individuals and families remains basically the same, there is more regulation of the process and reporting involved.
Jenkins said that one thing that hasn’t changed in her years at the UHA is how a great a place it has been to work.
“I’ve enjoyed working here, it’s a great place to work,” Jenkins said. “Most of the people who work here have worked here for 20 years and we’re kind of one big, happy family. I’m going to miss them.”
Jenkins’ last day at the UHA is Friday, but she won’t be leaving the office unprepared for her departure. She said that Debbie Maness will be her successor as Assistant Director and Finance Administrator and that they have been working together for the past three years training her for the position.
As for what she will do during her retirement, Jenkins said she will be spending time with her mother who lives with her and she also plans to visit family members who live in Georgia and San Diego, California.
UHA Executive Director Robbie Littlejohn said that Jenkins will be missed as he looked back across her years of service.
“Katie’s current job title is Assistant Director and Finance Officer of the Union Housing Authority,” Littlejohn said. “She has done these duties for the past 46 years although her title has changed over the years. She was originally hired to work with the additional units that were being added and then after two years she went into finance and that’s where she’s been ever since. She has served as Acting Director on more than one occasion.
“Katie is one of the most dedicated workers I have ever met,” he said. “I consider her to be ‘The Housing Authority.’ She has worked many late hours over her 46 years of service to our agency. She is humble and kind and always thinks about others first. Her shoes will be hard to fill. We are certainly going to miss her and we wish her the very best in retirement.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.