City Employee of the Year: Debbie Gelineau loves getting the word out about Bartlett
[Editor's note: This article corrects the headline error in the print version of The Bartlett Express. Debbie Gelineau was chosen as the 2017 Bartlett Express Readers' Choice City Employee of the Year, not a different title.]
Debbie Gelineau, Bartlett’s director of community relations, is now a two-time winner of the Bartlett Express Readers’ Choice Awards. She’s been named as the 2017 City Employee of the Year, a title she also won in 2015.
“I’m humbled,” she said. “I think that so many people in the city deserve recognition like this. I love my job. I like what I do.”
This past year she’s been busier than ever in her role of organizing logistics for events, manning the city’s social media platforms, publishing the city employees’ monthly newsletter, working with the press and getting the word out about what’s happening in Bartlett. In an average year, she oversees the Christmas parade, Bartlett Festival, Veteran’s Day Ceremony, Fourth of July festivities, and the Children’s Fish and Rodeo, among others. But the city’s celebration of its sesquicentennial throughout 2016 kept her agenda packed as she collaborated with Alderman Paula Sedgwick and other city leaders.
“I worked with lots of different people on different projects,” she said. “We wanted that to really be a big thing.”
This year, the big project in Bartlett (aside from the high school renovation and expansion) involves upgrades at W.J. Freeman Park and a new road to help ease traffic in and out, she said. The city also will revamp its website over the next six to eight months.
Gelineau has worked for the city since July 1995, starting part-time in the Parks and Recreation Department after then-Mayor Bobby Flaherty was impressed by her work in the Oak Elementary PTA and invited her to come work for him. She graduated to a full-time position in 1998 and later continued working under Mayor Ken Fulmar’s administration. Then when Mayor Keith McDonald was elected, she was appointed to her current position.
“I feel like I’ve learned a lot about Bartlett, a lot about local politics, kind of developed the job as I go along,” she said.
She is a tireless worker who brings work home and even checks her messages and takes calls while on vacation. The ease of today’s technology encourages her to respond as soon as possible so citizens know that city hall hears them and is responsive.
“If I have Internet, I’m going to answer them,” she said. “Whether it’s on our Facebook page or on my email or whatever. Now we can even get our phone messages to come to our email.”
She remembers being on vacation for Mardi Gras in Galveston, Texas, a few years ago when a major winter storm hit Bartlett. She recalls sitting up in bed at 5 a.m., getting the word out to everyone about whether schools or city offices were closed, whether trash pickup would be delayed and other key facts of the city’s operations.
Gelineau smiled and shrugged, because she knows that her job means serving the people. “You can never turn it off. ... So I don’t sleep on snow days. I’m working!”
Interacting with people is her favorite part of the job. She couldn’t stand working if she only sat behind a computer screen, she said. Working with colleagues on major events like the 2017 Independence Day fireworks display and pulling it off as a team effort is rewarding to her.
Originally from Bowling Green, Ky., she reared her sons in Bartlett, where they went through Oak Elementary, Appling Middle School and Bolton High School. They are now 30 and 34 with families of their own, giving Gelineau four grandsons.
“I’m surrounded by boys,” she said.
Aside from spending time with family, her pastimes include exercising, going to the beach and spending time with friends. But she can often be found hard at work on the city’s communications, even when she’s technically off the clock.
“I like promoting things, the city, being around people,” she said. “... I just like interacting with people and getting out.”
CAROLYN BAHM is the editor of The Bartlett Express. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.