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Celebrating Labor Day

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In recognition of Labor Day, The Oldham Era pays tribute to members of Oldham County's workforce for a job well done.

By Melissa Blankenship

 Punctuated by backyard cookouts and the last dips in the pool, for most Americans Labor Day is the last chance to enjoy all summer has to offer.

The national holiday, however, was created to celebrate workers and their achievements following a dark time in America’s labor history marked by excessively long work days, child labor, poor wages and unsafe working conditions.

As more Americans left agriculture for manufacturing jobs in the late 19th century, labor unions developed in an effort to advocate for workers. On Sept. 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took an unpaid day off work to march in Chicago in protest of poor working conditions. The event has come to be known as the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.

The idea of a workingman’s holiday, celebrated on the first Monday in September, caught on in other industrial cities, and many states passed legislation recognizing it. Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday 12 years later. 

Recognizing the contributions and impact a strong and healthy workforce has on a community, Oldham County has much to celebrate this Labor Day.

Oldham County consistently enjoys some of the lowest unemployment rates in the state and boasts a diverse workforce including segments represented by the self-employed, independently-owned businesses, retail, food and service industry, commercial, professional and manufacturing.

Here are just a few of the members of that workforce that keep Oldham County moving forward, running efficiently and contributing to the quality of life for its residents.

 

Name: Graham Reynolds

Work place: Family Resource Center Coordinator, Oldham County Schools

 

It might sound cliché, but Graham Reynolds wants to make a difference.

“Whether that’s in a really big way, in small ways, with one-on-one time with a child, or an encouraging word,” Reynolds said. “I want to help a family in some way, either directly or by pointing them in the right direction, so that they can find success.”

Reynolds, who’s been a family resource center coordinator with OCS since 2001, has served in some sort of a support role in the field of education for his entire career, which began 25 years ago in Jefferson County working with high school freshmen at risk of dropping out. Couple that with his “other” job as a pastor and a personal history of service basically writes itself.

“He has a compassion that goes beyond the boundaries of a 9-to-5 workday,” La Grange Elementary School Principal Heather Thomas said. “He works tirelessly to remove any barrier to a child’s learning. He approaches need without judgment in the role of a servant and simply says, ‘How can I help you?’”

A local family recently experienced Reynolds’ desire to help in any way possible after a summer house fire left them homeless. Reynolds worked to get the family of six out of a one-room basement that was serving as a temporary home. He also made sure the children had everything they needed to start school.

“If it wasn’t for Graham contacting Good News Homes for us we might still be in that basement. He is also the reason all my children immediately had some clothes to wear, not just the two that attended La Grange but our two younger children as well,” Brandi Dunk said. “My 10-month-old son was left without a car seat as I had carried him into the house the night before in his infant carrier and it was lost in the fire. Need not fear though, because Graham got us a brand new car seat the same day of the fire. I could go on and on about everything Graham provided to us to help us get our lives back together, but we would be here for hours.”

“He does all that for everybody,” Thomas said. “There are so many things he does that are not in his job description and he takes on all tasks with a smile.”

Through the center, Reynolds provides supplies and resources for children and families. He also organizes parent programs and coordinates after-school and summer programming.

 

“I simply want to make a difference in a child’s life and with that family as well,” Reynolds said. 

Name: Joe Ezzio

Workplace: Pharmacist at Kroger, La Grange

 

For Joe Ezzio, doing a good job boils down to a basic philosophy.

“We simply treat our customers the way we want to be treated,” Ezzio, pharmacist at Kroger in La Grange said. “And I just try my best to model that to my team.”

After 31 years at Kroger, Ezzio knows how his customers want to be treated.

“They want fast, professional service,” Ezzio said. “They want their prescriptions filled with fast, accurate, friendly service. That’s one of our main goals.”

According to store manager Steve Hefner, Ezzio also knows how to hit goals. Hefner credits Ezzio with managing the number one pharamcy in all the Kroger Company Family of Pharmacies, which includes 14 store names, along with its flagship Kroger.

“Joe provides great customer service,” Hefner said. “He knows everybody and a little about everybody.”

Ezzio said one of the most enjoyable aspects of his job was seeing generations of family at the pharmacy. He’s filled prescriptions for toddlers that have grown up to work with him in the store, or are now bringing their own toddlers to him to fill their prescriptions.

“That’s kind of fun for me,” Ezzio said. “I’ve really enjoyed that.”

And although his pharmacy is the busiest non-24-hour pharmacy in the company, Ezzio doesn’t rest on his laurels and always feels there is room for improvement.

“We work really hard to meet our goals, but sometimes we fall short,” Ezzio said. “When that happens, we learn from it, adjust how we do things and go back at it.”

His branch has been held up as a model of efficiency by the corporation. Kroger has sent staffers out to La Grange to watch Ezzio’s team in action and study the work flow of his pharmacy.

 

“He leads his team very well,” Hefner said. “I wish I had lots of Joe’s.”

Name: Olivia Smith

Workplace: Burning Bush Grill, Prospect

 

Michael Smith, the owner of Burning Bush Mediterranean Grille, said that most of his employees are teenagers.  They are trained to do one job, and usually they stick with the job they are trained to do.  However, he said that his truly excellent employees, employees like Olivia Smith, are the ones who learn the ins and outs of the entire restaurant.

“What makes one an exceptional employee is the ability to see beyond the one job,” Michael said.  

He also identified an ability to help get the restaurant moving as another strong quality that he looks for in employees.

“They self-initiate,” he said of his best workers.

 

However, Olivia does not do her work for the recognition.  

“I’m an awkward person, I guess.  I don’t like to be put in the spotlight,” she said.  

Olivia has worked on and off at the Burning Bush since it opened.  All told, she estimates that she has been there for five years.  

“I’ve been doing it for so long,” she said.  “Since it’s my family business, I care about it more than most employees.”  

Olivia is currently in school and hopes to get a degree in teaching.  From there she plans on teaching elementary students.  She also expressed a desire to teach at schools in less fortunate areas.  

“[I want to] give kids something to look forward to if they don’t have much to look forward to at home,” she said.

 

In the far future, she would like to get her doctorate and teach college.  

Name: Stan Clark

Workplace: Chief Financial Officer for Oldham County Fiscal Court

 

By all accounts, Stan Clark could be working somewhere else making a lot more money, but for the last six years he’s dedicated himself to creating financial soundness for Oldham County.

“Stan is an extremely competent financial manager who has been able to save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars through his expertise and knowledge,” Oldham County Judge-Executive David Voegele said. “He’s also worked with the sewer department and Oldham County EMS and done an excellent job there.”

Clark began working with the county as treasurer, a position he thought might be part-time and temporary. After a time, he assumed the role of chief financial officer, and began tackling some tough issues.

“We had budgets running in deficits in a downward trending economy,” Clark said. “We had to make some changes organizational and we needed to do things smarter and more efficiently.

Voegele credits Clark with pulling the county out of debt in its EMS budget and managing a very tight sewer and stormwater district budget.

“He’s done an excellent job there,” Voegele said. “That’s worked out extremely well for the community. We were in deep financial problems with EMS and we were able to subsequently come through that with no tax increase. He deserves a significant amount of credit for the work he’s done there.”

Clark acknowledges that county government finances are very different from managing private or corporate dollars. He also knows how demanding working for or consulting with private entities can be, jobs he’s held in the past. Working for the county affords him enough flexibiilty in his schedule to also serve as the cross country and track coach for South Oldham High School. But his greatest gain from working in a public job is in the satisfaction of a job well done.

 

“As long as I am working for a judge that is willing to do the absolute best for the county, I’m willing to help and do what I can to move it forward,” Clark said. “It’s about taking pride in your job and getting the job done. As long as you’re with a good team, that can happen.”