Employee retires after 31 years of service

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Irene Joseph began her tenure in 1978

By Carol A. Clark

Senior Assessment Specialist Irene Joseph can’t believe her part-time position with Los Alamos County in August 1978 turned into permanent employment spanning three decades.

Joseph, 69, expressed mixed feelings about her upcoming retirement during an interview at the County Assessor’s Office.

“I’m starting to get nervous. I’ve been telling people I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself,” Joseph said. “My last day of work is Monday, although I officially retire Dec. 31. It’ll be a big change.”

She explained wanting to retire earlier but the economic crisis meant she had to put it off for a while. In the meantime her husband, Pete Joseph, was battling cancer. He died Oct. 30, following an operation.

“He retired from Los Alamos County in 1996 after 27 years. He worked in the Parks and Recreation Department taking care of the Rose Garden and he cared for the cemetery, too,” she said.

When Joseph started working at the county, she had two daughters and two sons spread between elementary and middle school.

“We watched each others kids grow up,” she said of her co-workers. “I’m really going to miss them — they’ve become like my family — I spend more time with them than I do my own family.”

One of Joseph’s sons worked for Rio Arriba County and was critically injured in an accident in 2004. He was 35-years-old at the time and suffered a severe brain injury. She now cares for him in her home.

“I’m hoping he and I can visit my granddaughter stationed at Cannon AFB in Clovis often after I retire. She’s been to Iraq and returned two months ago from Qatar,” Joseph said.

The county still used IBM punch cards when Joseph first went to work as a card puncher in the data processing department. She came in just ahead of the transition into online computing. Joseph went full-time in May 1983 and moved into the assessor’s office.

“I entered the cards online for all the departments,” she said.

Joseph recalled first working for Deputy Assessor Victor Baca for about a year. He was replaced by Dan Parton for another year-and-a-half or two, followed by Galin Hooper until 1996 or 1997. She worked for Leo Barraza until his retirement in 2008. Joaquin Valdez was promoted to deputy assessor after Barraza left. He and Joseph have worked together nearly 10 years.

“Irene has been a great employee. We are losing a person with a great deal of knowledge — she knows this office inside and out,” Valdez said. “I appreciate that she has taken the time to train other staff and ensure they are ready to assume her duties. I wish her the best in her retirement; we are really going to miss her very much.”

Joseph spoke of both her favorite part of the work she did these many years and also what presented the most challenge.

Having the opportunity to interact with the members of the community and helping them find answers to their property tax questions was very satisfying, she said, and the toughest part was keeping abreast of the ever-changing tax laws.

County Assessor JoAnn Johnson agreed saying that Joseph was a wonderful employee and both she and her corporate knowledge would be missed.

County Administrator Tony Mortillaro commended Joseph on her service.

“I applaud Mrs. Joseph for 31 years of faithful service to Los Alamos County,” Mortillaro said.  “I want to personally thank her for her exceptional service, her contributions and always being responsive to the needs of the county citizens. Irene, enjoy your retirement – it is well deserved.”

The public is invited to attend a farewell reception for Joseph from 1-3 p.m. Monday in the County Assessor’s Office at 2451 Central Ave.,

Suite C.