After 30 years working for Newton County, with the past eight spent caring for county residents, public administrator Diane Dodson is retiring.
Dodson, whose last day will be Dec. 31, has worn several hats in her years with the county, including election clerk, the state’s first traffic coordinator, and criminal law secretary.
Though Dodson’s retirement plans include much more time with family, she says she will miss the second family she has spent the last several years working with.
“I am going to have terrible separation anxiety,” Dodson said. “I’m going to miss my wards so much because I bonded with them so much and they’re just like family to me and everybody in the courthouse that I’ve worked with all these years.”
Steve Welshhon, public administrator assistant, said Dodson’s family will likely be happy to have her back, after the countless hours she has spent helping others.
“She’s been wonderful to the people,” Welshhon said. “In the four plus years I’ve been here we’ve gone from 70 people to over 160. Just the volume has changed, the people that she takes care of, basically they all see her as a family member. They love her and what she does.”
Dodson was first elected to the office eight years ago, in an election win that she identifies as one of her favorite memories from 30 years of public service.
She opted not to seek re-election this year, and her seat will be filled in January by the winner of that contest, JeAnna McGarrah.
Welshhon said Dodson will be a tough act to follow.
“I’m sure Mrs. McGarrah will do a good job but it’s just going to be hard to replace the personal care and love that Diane’s shared with the people,” Welshhon said. “They all just love her to death.”
When asked, Welshhon can easily think of several examples of Dodson’s selfless service.
“We had two brothers and a sister that all lived together and one of the brothers passed away,” Welshhon said. “She went to the home and of course was helping them with their loss, but she ended up helping them find clothes for the funeral, took them home and mended them, washed them, and did all that so they would be prepared.”
He also told of a time when a man in St. Louis passed away, and his sisters, in Newton County, wanted to see him before he was cremated. Welshhon said Dodson stayed in the office until the late hours of the night to work through arrangements to make it happen.
Page 2 of 2 - “I was impressed by that,” Welsshon said.
Though she’s leaving her role soon, her duties of caring for others are not over. Except this time, she’s going to have a different title.
“The thing that pleases me most is the fact that I’m going to be a wife and a mom and a grandma again,” Dodson said. “My family has supported me all these years and unfortunately I’ve had to put them on the back burner more than I wanted to. I’m going to be a grandma, and a mom and a wife!”