A City of Hood River Public Works employee has earned a top state award for her organizational abilities and efficient service.
But it took an intricate act of subterfuge to get Jan Morris, the reticent but highly capable administrative assistant, to the March 5 ceremonial dinner in Bend where she would be honored by the Oregon Association of Water Utilities.
“I heard my name and I just kind of went blank and then began to feel absolute fear,” said Morris, who was totally surprised when she was named as Office Manager of the Year.
Mark Lago, director of public works/engineering, nominated Morris for the first-ever award to recognize the valuable “behind the scenes” efforts of a municipal employee.
Lago felt that after 12 years of dedicated service, Morris deserved a tribute for keeping the operations of the engineering, parks, street, water and wastewater departments running smoothly.
“Jan has an enormous amount on her plate and really deserved this award. She does the job of two people with ease and perfection. I don’t know how our public works department would survive without her,” said Lago.
However, he knew the modest Morris would object to the public attention so, once he received word that she had won, the plotting and scheming began. Because Jan “dots every ‘i’ twice and crosses every ‘t’ twice,” Lago knew that he couldn’t make secret arrangements through the office to get her to the dinner.
So, he enlisted the help of Morris’ husband, Michael, who spontaneously invited her to take a couple of days off to accompany him on a “business trip” in Eastern Oregon that could also double as a vacation. And while Jan was doubtful about missing work, she was encouraged by Lago to accept the offer — although she did ask a fair number of questions about the nature of the trip.
“I was a little suspicious, it was just kind of unusual for him to be called in the middle of the week to go somewhere,” she said.
Her confusion mounted when she arrived at the Great Hall of the resort and found not her husband’s constituents, but Lago and other known public works employees. Lago said he had to escort a stricken Morris to the podium when she was called to recieve the gleaming wooden plaque that is now proudly displayed on her office wall.
“It really was an absolute shock but I am thankful that Mark took the time to fill out the nomination and go through this effort,” Morris said.