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1 woman, 1 career: 62 years of service

Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Being two hours late for your first day of work and accidentally head-butting the governor isn't exactly the best way to start a career in state government.

Unless you're Nancylea Hunt.

Despite her less than stellar beginning, Hunt went on to amass 62 years of full-time state employment -- a tenure touted by state officials as the longest in Missouri history.

Her former co-worker Frank Blankenship spent more years on the state payroll -- 69 to her 62 -- but worked fewer total hours. He became a part-time state employee after retiring in the mid-1970s, and stopped working altogether about a year ago.

At a retirement reception 62 years to the day of her first day of a three-month temporary state job, Hunt recalled oversleeping on Feb. 28, 1941. When she got to work that day, she rushed into an elevator -- and ran head-on into Gov. Forrest Donnell.

''I hit him pretty hard,'' said Hunt, who is 81, single and has no children.

Years later, Hunt reminded Donnell about the incident: ''He said he still had the scar.''

Hunt has worked for the past two decades as a professional assistant for the state Board of Fund Commissioners and Escheats Office, which issues general obligation bonds.

She has been recognized for one of the notable achievements in her long career: her discovery of the original construction plans for Missouri's Capitol, records that had been long thought to have disappeared.

Her service appears to stand out nationally.

''It's rare to hear of someone who dedicated themselves to public service for that long,'' said Gene Rose, a spokesman for the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver and a former communications chief for the Missouri House.

''It's harder and harder for state government to remain competitive in the job market, so for someone to serve in state government for that long is definitely a benefit to state government.''

A native of Prairie Home and graduate of Sedalia Business College, Hunt worked for Standard Oil Co. before she became a state employee. She had her share of bad days throughout her career, in which Missouri had 12 governors, but she left with no regrets.

''If you like your work, you never work a day in your life,'' she said. ''If you don't like your work, you better find something that you do like.''

One thing Hunt doesn't much appreciate is being called ''elderly.''

''Watch it, boy, you may be in trouble,'' Hunt told an interviewer. ''I never thought I'd live this long.

''I always said people, when they get to be 80 years old, have no business driving a car,'' she added. ''But I still drive. I drive a convertible.''

Mark Kaiser, executive secretary of the Board of Fund Commissioners, said working with Hunt the last 25 years has been an unforgettable experience. She always had time to offer advice -- such as telling her boss that he needed a haircut.

''When some people get on in years they won't be as sharp,'' Kaiser said. ''But she's not leaving because she's slipping or losing it, she is just leaving because she feels it's time for her. I can't see this record ever being broken.''

Asked what it's been like working with the 50-year-old Kaiser, Hunt deadpanned: ''I turned out to be a young man's slave.''



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