Walters prepares to get back to her roots

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By Jennifer Garcia

Serving customers’ needs and resolving their issues in a timely manner doesn’t come easy for everyone. Those issues, however, are not a problem for Sandy Walters.

Walters has been the serving the public in a customer service capacity for nearly 18 years and on July 1, 2009, she’ll retire and pass the customer service torch to someone else.

Born in Oklahoma, but raised in Reserve, N.M., Walters lived in Albuquerque and Dallas before moving to Los Alamos in 1972.

She, however, was no stranger to the Atomic City. Before calling Los Alamos home, she spent summers with her older sister, who lived in Los Alamos.

“I loved it,” she said of the town and the time spent with her sister, “I had such good memories.”

When Walters’s husband, Mike landed a job at Los Alamos National Laboratory, they moved up the hill and have been here ever since.

Above all else, family comes first for Walters. “I have six sons, 17 grandchildren and two step-daughters,” she said. When describing herself, Walters says she’s as a homemaker at heart. “I love being a homemaker. That’s where I come from … family, home and neighbors that have extended to a larger group,” she commented.

In fact, Walters spent her first few years at home, raising her children, after coming to Los Alamos. She waited until her sons were in elementary school before she began working. “I was a stay-at-home mom, raising six boys and doing volunteer work at the school and at church,” Walters said.

Her first job was working for Dr. Robert Thompson, whom Walters describes as a “great first boss and a wonderful man.” She worked in Dr. Thompson’s office for 7-8 years, serving in many different capacities before leaving to work for the county’s Department of Public Utilities.

Walters’s first job at the DPU was that of a customer service representative. It was in that position that she honed customer service skills. “My phone number was the number printed on the back of every bill,” she recalls. Providing such a high level of customer service didn’t faze Walters, however. “Raising six boys helped prepare me for that level of customer service,” she joked.

She worked with the DPU for approximately eight years before she moved “through the wall,” to Community Development, where she’s been ever since.

Walters made the switch from the DPU to Community Development after the Cerro Grande Fire. “They needed another person to help with the building permits,” she explained.

The Cerro Grande had a great impact on Walters and is one of the work incidents she’ll never forget.

“The first night we were let back into the town was the day before the community was let in,” she explained. “There were no cars, no lights, no barking dogs … there were security helicopters flying overhead, panning their lights … it was a very different Los Alamos,” she recalled.

As with any job, Walters has had both challenges and rewards, as well. Her biggest challenge was making the transition from the doctor’s office to the DPU. She explained how going from an office where customers went to her for help, to an office where customers demanded explanations, was not an easy transition.

“It was challenging, but it was also good to be able to help (them) and have the power to fix something,” she said.

But her work experiences have not all been challenging. She describes herself as a people person and said that getting to meet people through her job was one of the greatest rewards.

“It carries over into the grocery stores, the doctor’s office, the movies, the bank. It’s interesting because having done customer service in so many different places, it gets to be a regular thing,” she said.

Walters doesn’t have any definite plans after retirement, but she made clear that spending time with her five granddaughters, whom she affectionately refers to as the “pink things” is high on her priority list.

She also said she intends to spend some time gardening and sewing and is looking forward to her husband retiring so they can travel together.

Even though she’s retiring, Walters will still continue to take care of others, though not in the customer service capacity that she’s become accustomed to. Instead, she plans to help care for her 97-year-old mother.

“My mom needs the kids to be caregivers. My brother and sisters have carried the load. It’s time for me to share in the blessings,” she said.