By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Aug. 23, 2018) For 45 years, Geneva Peters worked as the utility billing supervisor in the finance department for the Town of Berlin.
Last Wednesday afternoon, dozens of town workers and elected officials gathered to toast her retirement with a massive banana walnut cake – her favorite – gifts from several department heads, and a proclamation from Mayor Gee Williams on behalf of the Town Council.
“I’m just going to relax for awhile – maybe for the next 45 years – and then I’ll think about doing something else,” Peters said.
Originally from Newark, Peters moved to the Bay Street area of Berlin with her parents at a young age. She later moved to another home on Bay Street, where she still resides.
Peters said she originally applied for the job after reading an ad in the newspaper.
“Really, I wasn’t trained for this kind of thing … [but] it was a job opening in Berlin and, at that time, there were not many job openings,” she said. “I applied and they hired me, because they needed somebody right away, so I took it day by day … and I’ve been here 45 years.”
She said the biggest change in Berlin during her four-plus decades employed by the town is the increase in population.
Peters said Atlantic General Hospital, founded in 1993, brought a lot to the town and now new communities are popping up all the time. She the streets downtown are much more crowded now than during the early 1970s.
She decided to retire now because, “I’m just old enough. The age for social security has set in and I just thought it was my turn now.”
Asked what she would miss the most Peters joked, “donut day,” and then replied, “Just getting up and going to work.”
“I live close enough … and I just had no other reason not to be here. It’s an enjoyable place to work with nice guys, nice people.”
Williams, speaking before a large crowd of well wishers, said Peters was hired in October 1973.
“This is remarkable … I’ve certainly seen a lot of folks that retired 25, 30, maybe 35 [years into their career]. This is my first opportunity to know someone and to have worked with someone that had a career that lasted four and a half decades,” he said. “It’s rare now. I think it will be even more rare in the future.
“You can imagine what Geneva has seen since 1973,” he added.
He said billing systems that used to change every few years now seem to shift every few months.
“By the time everybody gets comfortable, everybody knows what we’re doing, we’ll change it up. That’s just the way the world works now … that’s very challenging,” he said. “But, through thick and thin, through all the changes that we’ve gone through as a community and as a society, we’ve always been able to depend on Geneva being there day in and day out.
“Can you imagine how many people’s lives you’ve effected all these years? Most of it has been good – I’m sure a few people were upset when you said, ‘you’ve got to pay your bill,’” Williams continued. “We can’t thank you enough. It’s hard to express such a long and dedicated service. You’re leading by example – you have led by example – and I think there’s many, many good people to follow.”
Williams presented the citation and a bouquet of flowers.
“We’re very, very honored to honor you today,” he said.
Finance Director Natalie Saleh gave Peters a gift on behalf of her department, adding, “Thank you, Geneva, for all the years. Thank you so much for great work and enjoy your retirement!”
There was also a card from the public works and water resources departments, and Electric Utilities Director Tim Lawrence gave Peters a card on behalf of his section.
“Is it a paid light bill?” she asked, drawing laughs from those in attendance.
Lawrence said Peters had called him just about every morning at 7 a.m. – sometimes earlier – “either concerning some kind of reading or something down those lines.”
“I’m just making sure that I’m not the only one working!” Peters said.
“I just wanted to let you know … we’re all going to miss you,” Lawrence said.
Human Resources Director Jeff Fleetwood closed the ceremony by presenting Peters with the enormous cake.
“On behalf of a grateful town and the employees, thank you,” Fleetwood said.