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NEWS | Aug. 27, 2013

The 'mom of lodging': General Smalls Inn employee celebrates 50 years of civil service

By Staff Sgt. Wesley Farnsworth 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

"It's all I know, and I love what I do."

It was 1963, and Anita Jefferson was looking for work. She had to decide between taking a job at a local Sears Roebuck store and working for the Army at Fort Eustis' post lodging.

Now, 50 years later, she recalls how her career in civil service began - a milestone no Fort Eustis civilian employee has ever achieved.

After starting her career as a housekeeper, management quickly noticed her dedication and attention to detail, and gave her increased responsibility.

"After a while, I was serving as the acting supervisor," said Jefferson. "Then, I got a call one night at home and was told the current supervisor was leaving and that the position was mine."

During her 50 years of service, she has held many titles, including custodial worker, associate manager, operations assistant and supervisor. She said she has seen many changes throughout her career.

"Back when I first started as the supervisor, you had to assign everyone their tasks, then manually do their time cards one by one," said Jefferson. "After that, I had to check their daily duties or other tasks that were left for the day before going home."

Checking rooms could be quite the task. Unlike today, where all 365 rooms are located in a single five-story building, the 225 rooms were located in lodging buildings scattered across post.

"There were some buildings you would have to walk half a mile just to clean," said Jefferson.

Jefferson also recalled how the rooms have changed over the years.

"When I first started here, only officers were allowed to stay with us, and they stayed in buildings that had bunk beds, a single bathroom and a single kitchen to be shared by everyone," said Jefferson. "Today everyone has their own bed, bathroom and even kitchen, in some cases."

In 2010, Jefferson suffered a stroke and a heart attack, forcing her to take a year off of work. She credits the love of her job and the support of her co-workers for helping her bounce back and keep going.

"I've had several family members, some younger than I am, pass away from strokes and heart attacks over the years. Some of my co-workers told me they didn't think I was going to return to work after visiting me in the hospital," said Jefferson. "My work kept me going and made me want to get better."

Jefferson's resilience helped her become the first employee in Fort Eustis' history to reach 50 years in civil service.

According to Makisha McDonald, General Smalls Inn housekeeping manager, Jefferson is a model employee.

"Ms. Jefferson is considered the 'mom of lodging' around here," said McDonald. "She is always willing to extend a hand to anyone that needs it to ensure the job gets done."
McDonald said Jefferson also serves as a role model for the inn's.

"She is a wonderful employee, and everyone here looks up to her," said McDonald. "She has taught me so much in the 14 years I've been here, and it will be a sad day when she decides to retire."

However, Jefferson said she has no plans of retiring any time soon.

"When the day comes that I get up and don't feel like going to work, I'll know it's time to retire," said Jefferson.

When Jefferson does decide to step down, she has wise words to the younger generation.

"Don't work just for the money. You have to like your job and be dedicated to it," she said. "If you don't like your job, you won't want to get out of bed in the morning, but if you do like it, you will look forward to going to work.

"Finally, whatever you decide to do, make sure you do it well. Your hard work and dedication will be recognized."