International Women's Day was last week, and what better way to celebrate then to speak to a woman who's been breaking the mold of what we're told should be "a woman's job" all her life.Meet our new Board member, Sandy Walker, in her own words."I was raised on a farm in Southeast Missouri. My dad was a farmer and saw miller. I'm the oldest of 5 girls. My first non-traditional job was operating a dozier. My dad taught me to run the dozier when he would clear land when I was only 7. I could operate the dozier while he pulled me out of the mud with a tractor. While on the farm, I learned to operate and repair numerous pieces of machinery and could build almost anything.
My Dad’s family were all involved in farming. My grandmother, Versie, was my female inspiration that lead my path to where I am today. I fondly remember spending the day with her when I was young. We would start our day before the sun came up. We cooked three meals a day, tended to a half acre garden, canned, washed the laundry to hang up on the clothes line, mending clothes, completed yard work while taking care of 5 grandchildren. She never complained about working late in the night. She would spend her evenings making quilts to sell so the family would have money for birthdays and Christmas. My Grandmother depended on my Grandpa. She never learned to drive. Grandpa would drive her to the grocery store on Friday and give her allotted amount of money to purchase food for the week. While I admired my Grandmother’s spirit, I still felt she was too dependent on my Grandpa. I told myself at a young age that I will work as hard as my Grandmother, but I will not be dependent on someone else. I will take control of my own life and be an independent.
I graduated during midterm of my senior year and applied for a job at the City of Poplar Bluff Cemetery. The job description was for a laborer to cut grass and dig graves. This sounded easy for a farm girl, especially for over $3.00 an hour. I was the first woman to work for the city outside of an office job. It was a rough road for a few years. I transferred to the Street Department as a tractor operator mowing the streets in tow. They assigned me to the asphalt crew where I learned to use a jackhammer and asphalt streets. I laugh when I look back on my jobs. I thought I must have been out of my mind. It was during this time that I realized my need to go back to college. I took a few classes and decided I just didn’t have time for school. I had to travel to different towns to take classes. To top it off it was during this point that I got married.
After getting married, I noticed that The City Light and Water side had a job opening for laborer. I applied to transfer from the General Fund side to the Utility side. I was the first city employee to transfer between the two entities. I spent a couple years cutting grass, painting, and doing construction work. A position for a mechanic became available in my department, and with my years of farming/mechanical experience I applied and was awarded the job. The job also included being a relief operator in the City Water Plant. During this time, the second and most important female inspiration came into my life. I had a daughter. Hailey inspired me to be a better example for her.
I continued to work as a mechanic and went back to college at night. My advisor, Dr. Mary A. Phyfer, was the third female that would impact and inspire my life. She encouraged me everyday that anything is possible if you commit to it. She taught me that there will be challenges, setbacks, and disappointments but you should always focus on the end goal. I was the first student to graduate from having strictly night classes from Three Rivers Community College with an associate's degree in business
After graduating from college, a position in the Electric Department became available. The position paid twice what I was making! I applied along side of several men. I scored very high on the written and skills test, however one of the men was hired instead. I then turned to my women of inspiration with a goal in mind that I was going to achieve. I would spend the next 6 months at lunch with an employee from that department who taught me all I needed to know to get the next job available. Finally, a position opened. I applied and scored a 100 and was awarded the position of Warehouse Clerk I.
As my daughter got older, she inspired me once again. I wanted to teach my daughter that no challenge is too much. I went back to college through an online program with Southeast Missouri State University to get my bachelor’s degree. I would work 60 hours a week and graduated with honors with a degree in Organizational Business and a minor in Accounting. I completed my degrees 5 months prior to my daughter’s graduation from high school.
Today, I’m still in the Electric Department warehouse as clerk/inventory controller. I take great pride in serving as MO Lagers Trustee; Executive Secretary for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local #702 Sikeston Unit; Secretary Officer for the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks Lodge #2452. I also work on my own as a booking/tax service and remodel houses on the side for when I’m bored 😉.
My advice for a young woman wishing to enter a male dominated field:
Lean in - never tell yourself you don’t belong there. You own the position as much as they do! Anything is possible when you commit to it!”