Not everyone gets a send off by five parish presidents when they retire, but that’s an honor reserved for Sandra Zimmer of Luling after 30 years of service with the St. Charles Parish Government.At her retirement party, Zimmer was honored by current Parish President Larry Cochran, along with former parish presidents Chris Tregre, V.J. St. Pierre and Albert Laque Kevin Friloux telephoned and wished her well.
“That was awesome to me,” Zimmer said. “I felt like a history book. It was really special. Although some of us had our differences at time, we all had a good working relationship.”
Zimmer, who worked as the parish government’s personnel officer, will officially retire on April 1, but her last day at work was March 11 because of accrued vacation.
“I did the same job for 30 years,” she mused. “Things did change and evolve so much, though. St. Charles Parish has grown from about 200 employees in 1986 and now the parish is pushing over 500 people. We’ve added responsibilities and duties. We’ve grown by leaps and bounds.”
The ability to solve problems drew Zimmer to the job.
“It was the human resources function as well, whether it was a personnel problem I could assist with or a work related problem or a supervisor-to-subordinate problem,” she said. “If I could make it a workable situation that felt good.”
Without question the least favorite part of her job was terminating an employee. She preferred to think they terminated themselves because civil service allows ample opportunity to fix the situation.
Zimmer welcomed being instrumental in getting the civil service system into the parish’s home rule charter, which ensured its future with the parish. She was heavily involved with employee benefits.
“I just learned so much about health insurance, the retirement system and stayed abreast with that, and brought in some good changes with employee benefits overall,” she said.
She also was instrumental in getting the parish administration to do pay studies to ensure they kept pay competitive and kept qualified employees.
In Zimmer’s own application for a job with the parish, she landed the only department head position that is civil service. It was legally done to ensure continuity in the office even as administrations change.
“I went and interviewed and there were over 20 people interviewing,” she said. “The Civil Service Board interviewed and offered the recommendation to the parish president so it was the Civil Service Board that actually hired me, but daily you work for the parish president and his chief administrator.”
At the time, it was Tim Vial “who raised me” in educating her about the parish and local politics. Vial taught her about civil service, as well.
A native of Monroe, La., Zimmer had come to live with her father in Luling and attended Nicholls State University in Thibodaux where she earned a bachelor’s degree in personnel administration.
She started her career at Catholic Charities in New Orleans and then went to AMI St. Jude, also working in human resources. From there, she heard about a job at St. Charles Parish government and, since it fit her and her husband’s plans to have children, interviewed for the position.
“It started as just a job and it became a career,” she said of being named the parish’s personnel officer.
In the last five years of her job, Zimmer said time seemed to go so fast.
“When you’re on the down side of the hill, you can see the finish line,” she said. “It started to be not as tedious, I guess, and this could be my last time to do this or that working with the parish president or department head. As it got closer, it got strange but it feels like I can get used to it.”
And then came the party.
Zimmer said, “They gave me an awesome going away celebration.”