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May 25, 2012

People

Current longest-serving garrison employees to retire soon
Byers, Steen to wrap up more than 85 years combined federal service

The two civilian employees at Fort McCoy, who, according to personnel records, are the current longest-serving federal civilian employees in the garrison with a combined 85-plus years of federal civilian service, are retiring.

Rita Byers, a paralegal specialist with the Installation Legal Office (ILO), and Audrey Steen, a financial technician with the Resource Management Office (RMO), will wrap up their careers within three days of each other.
PHOTO: Rita Byers, Installation Legal Office paralegal specialist .
Byers
PHOTO: Audrey Steen, Resource Management Office financial technician
Steen

Byers, who began her career at Fort McCoy Feb. 9, 1976, first went to work for the FBI at Washington, D.C., May 31, 1966. She is retiring May 31, with 36 years of federal civilian service at Fort McCoy included in her 44 years, 24 days of federal civilian service. She currently is the longest-serving federal civilian employee in the Fort McCoy garrison in terms of seniority (total years of federal civilian service, not including military or other creditable service).

Steen plans to retire June 2. She began her career as a card-punch operator at the Finance and Accounting Office June 29, 1970. Her 41 years, 11 months of federal civilian service at Fort McCoy makes her the currently longest-serving civilian employee (not including military or other creditable service) in the garrison in terms of federal civilian service served solely at the garrison.

Byers has had a variety of career experience with different organizations and installations. Between 1966 and 1976, she worked at the FBI in Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, at the U.S. Embassy in Bern, Switzerland, and for the Provost Marshal’s Office and then for the Naval Investigative Service, both at Camp Pendleton, Calif. At Fort McCoy, she began working for the organization that is the predecessor of the Network Enterprise Center in 1976 before making a lateral transfer to the ILO in 1986.

Steen has served her entire federal civilian career at the RMO. She has served as an accounting technician, a budget assistant, and a card-punch operator, in addition to being a financial technician.

Byers filled out an application to be considered by the FBI as a high school senior. Steen took the civil service test after graduating from Western Wisconsin Technical College before being hired at RMO.

Both said they enjoyed their jobs at Fort McCoy and the people they worked with and the clients they served.

Byers said her most-memorable accomplishment at Fort McCoy was her role in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. “I like being able to help Soldiers e-file their tax returns and get their money back so they don’t have to worry about the process,” Byers said. “We helped about 300 servicemembers and their Families this year.”

The spirit of helping Soldiers and their Families with such things as powers of attorney and other legal issues have helped keep Byers going over the past few years.

Steen said she enjoyed the jobs she did and the people she worked with. “If you enjoy your job, the time goes by quickly,” Steen said. “To the people who follow me, I would say like your job and be willing and open to training and changes.”

Col. Audrey (Aviva) Lewis, Fort McCoy ILO Command Judge Advocate and Byers’ supervisor, said Byers is extremely dedicated to Soldiers, and if they need help, she will help them.

“She brings a broad range of knowledge to the job, having served as a legal clerk and also handling a lot of our administrative work, and with her years of service has a lot of institutional knowledge,” Lewis said. “She is a Wisconsin notary public, so she can help our clients with that service or information to take care of many of their legal needs. I’m not looking forward to losing her to retirement.”

Ginny Quirin, Steen’s supervisor, said Steen has been reliable, enjoys her job and is a good team member.

“She wants to keep working until the last day she is here and has set a good example for the other employees,” Quirin said. “She has a lot of experience and will be missed. The other employees enjoyed working with her and she enjoyed working with other people and taking pride in her work.”

“She is involved in the training and mentoring of the people who are replacing her and is helping with the transition,” Quirin said. “We’ll be dividing her work among three people.”

Both Byers and Steen said they have seen a lot of changes over the years.

Byers said the biggest change she has witnessed is the renovation and modernization of existing buildings and construction of new facilities. When she worked in the 1000 block during Desert Storm in the 1990s, which was referred to as the old hospital area, the buildings had plug ins hanging from the ceilings and bad lighting.

Byers said renovations in those days consisted of adding overhead lighting and installing heaters on the wall.

“When they did that, we knew we would be in the buildings for awhile,” she said. The buildings have since been torn down to make way for newer facilities.

Steen said when she first started at RMO, employees entered the data on punch cards and then moved to using floppy disks. There were boxes and boxes of paper and reports to go through.

“Now everything is done on computers,” Steen said. “We also didn’t have air conditioning when I began,” so working conditions are much more comfortable nowadays.

In retirement, Byers plans to keep busy with volunteer work and more time with her grandchildren. She begins serving, effective June 16, as the state secretary of the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Byers also volunteers at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center, is the co-coordinator of the Second Harvest in Cashton, and also does volunteer work for the Cashton Cupboard and Closet, a second-hand store, whose sales support the Cashton Food Pantry.

Steen’s retirement plans include traveling and spending more time with her Family, including her grandson.

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