Monday, November 12, 2012
Profiles of service: Honoring the City of Plano’s veterans
Veterans make up more than 10% of the city of Plano's workforce.
PLANO The city of Plano has about 2,000 employees with responsibilities ranging from facility maintenance and code inspection to putting out fires and rounding up stray animals.
While city employees come from all walks of life, more than 10% of them have one thing in common: They put themselves in harm's way to protect America's freedom. These veterans include City Manager Bruce Glasscock (Air Force), Police Chief Greg Rushin (Air Force), Interim Fire Chief Bill Peterson (Navy), and City Councilman Pat Miner (Air Force).
In preparation for Veterans Day, the city's 225 veteran employees were recognized during a city council meeting last month. The Plano Star Courier spoke with several of the veterans to highlight their service and find out what Veterans Day means to them.
The helicopter mechanic
Andrea Park doesn't look like your stereotypical helicopter mechanic.
As the city's policy and government relations coordinator, Park is responsible for helping formulate the city's legislative agenda while also ensuring strong communication with entities such as the North Texas Municipal Water District. Park has worked for the city for 4 1/2 years -- but prior to that, she served five years in the Navy.
"I get a lot of strange looks when I tell people I was a helicopter mechanic," said Park, who left the Navy with the rank of petty officer second class. "They figure there is no way I possibly knew what I was doing. I picked the job because it was something I knew nothing about and ended up loving it."
During her time in the Navy, Park was deployed overseas twice, including a stint on the U.S.S. Nimitz during Operation Iraqi Freedom. While Park didn't come from a military family, she said her family is made up of teachers and other public servants, so serving her country came naturally.
While her current job doesn't involve wrenches or rotor blades, Park said her time in the Navy has proven beneficial to her current career.
"Being in the Navy taught me leadership philosophies and instilled a sense of discipline," she said. "It also prepared me for working in the public sector. When you are in the military you know you are serving the public, but you never really meet the individuals you are serving. Working for the city, I see the people I serve face-to-face."
Park said she feels a bit awkward when people thank her for being a veteran. Instead, Park said she prefers to spend Veterans Day remembering the wounded warriors as well as the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
The artillery officer
As the chief municipal judge for the city of Plano, Don Stevenson spends his days presiding over court cases. He came to Plano in 1997 and previously served as a municipal judge in Coppell and Dalworthington Gardens.
Stevenson joined the Army in 1966 after graduating from Arlington State College, which is now known as the University of Texas at Arlington. While he served as an artillery officer during his two stints in Vietnam, it was another job he had during his time in the Army that led him to pursue a career in law.
"When I was in the Army I kept getting exposed to legal issues as an assistant defense counsel at Fort Campbell," said Stevenson, who was discharged with the rank of captain. "I was also appointed to sit on two court martial boards. As a unit commander, I was also frequently involved when some troops didn't do what they were expected to do."
In 1967, an assistant defense counsel was not required to be licensed to practice law, Stevenson said. However, his time in the courtroom at Fort Campbell led Stevenson to enroll in law school at SMU after leaving the Army in 1970. Upon graduation in 1973, Stevenson was hired by Coppell and has been a judge since.
Stevenson was instrumental in identifying veterans in the city of Plano so they could be honored by the city council. He said as a combat veteran, Veterans Day has always been important to him and he wanted to ensure his fellow veterans got the recognition they deserved.
"I am grateful for all those folks who served, especially those who did not come home," he said. "Their families have my most sincere prayers."
The flight operations specialist
Scott Lussier has held several jobs in the 22 years since he graduated college.
In addition to his current role as a supervisor in the city's property standards department, Lussier has also worked as a probation officer and in flight operations for the Army. It was his four-year stint serving his country that Lussier credits for making him the person he is today.
"I think the individual I was prior to going in was not the individual that I was when I came out," he said. "I think military service does a lot to build character and to give you a professional demeanor and an attention to detail. I think my experience in the military definitely improved my professional abilities."
Lussier spent two years in Germany and was also deployed to Bosnia for a year as part of the international peacekeeping mission. His main responsibilities included tracking helicopter flights and ensuring pilots had all the information needed to perform their duties.
After leaving the military with the rank of sergeant, Lussier served as a probation officer before joining the city as a code inspector 10 years ago. He said the two jobs are similar since they are both regulatory in nature, and the transition was fairly smooth.
Lussier said Americans should always remember the sacrifices made by veterans, not just on Veterans Day, but year-round.
"Veterans Day serves as just one special day to remember all of the military personnel -- both active and retired -- and the sacrifices they make in their day-to-day lives," he said. "We also have to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice and were injured or killed in war. Everyone is busy in their day-to-day lives and they don't always think about the freedoms they have and who is there to make sure those freedoms continue."
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