She has been with civic association nearly five years

by: BARBARA SHERMAN - SERVICE WITH A SMILE - Debra Racoma-O'Connor, who started working for the King City Civic Association in November 2008, is beloved by the residents and has promised she will come back to visit.Debra Racoma-O'Conner is the first person people see when they walk into the King City Clubhouse, and she is usually the last person they see on their way out.

But all good things must come to an end, and O'Connor is wrapping up her nearly five-year tenure as the King City Civic Association's executive assistant at the end of September.

She came to King City in November 2008 from a high-tech background but quickly and graciously became a fixture in the retirement community, getting to know everyone by name and eager to resolve their issues or get them the information they requested.

As the right-hand (wo)man of KCCA Administrator J. Patrick Moore, O'Connor performs a myriad of tasks at her desk in between greeting everyone who comes to her window.

"I've never once been caught up in this job, because when people come to the window, I drop everything, and then it takes time to get back to the task I was doing,” she said. “Sometimes I stay late just to do some catching up."

O'Connor said she was ready for a new career path when she started at the KCCA, having worked for Nike in project management for almost 10 years and then taking 8 1/2 years off to spend more time with her husband and children.

"In 2008 the job market was tightening, but I thought it was time to rebuild my retirement account," O'Connor said. "There actually are a lot of similarities between my jobs at Nike and here - they both are highly customer-service oriented, and a homeowners' association is like a business. In both cases, you deal with complaints that are time-sensitive and work toward conflict resolution.

"I love the residents. I have so much respect for their generation. I think they really are the greatest generation, and everyone has a story. It's been a joy to get to know the residents - they are the highlight of my day every day."

However, O’Connor wasn't so sure the first week on the job that she had made the right choice.

"Within the first week, one of the residents came in, and he smelled kind of bad," she said. "His pants were falling down, and he asked for help pulling up his pants. I didn't know if that was part of my job description, but I did it. Then I heard his story - he was a World War II veteran - and it gave me a completely different perspective, and I learned you can't judge someone after a five-minute encounter."

Another challenge came after O'Connor had only been on the job for about six months: The young administrator who had hired her went on vacation in Europe - and never came back.

Yet another challenge she found was that the lack of flexibility in her hours: O'Connor has to be at her desk Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. "I like to be more active," she said.

Yet she stuck with the job and settled happily into it - until her home life called her again.

"My husband was a co-founder of a start-up 9 1/2 years ago, and he has always been busy, but he's even busier now, and I thought one of us needed to be home more," O'Connor said. "Three of our kids still live at home, and family is what is important."

Their children are 29, 27, 24 and 19, and one them has a wife and puppy living there. "They are all busy going to school and their jobs, so I'm hoping to get some 'me' time," O'Connor said. "The KCCA is in transition now with a new board and bookkeeper, and it seemed like a good time to leave."

She gave about six weeks notice, planning to make her last day Friday, Sept. 27, so that a new administrative assistant can be hired and overlap with O'Connor for a couple weeks of training.

"J. Pat is very knowledgeable," she said. "He is a walking encyclopedia of civic associations."

When O'Connor's first day of retirement comes around, "I will probably sleep in and then have a leisurely cup of coffee," she said. "Then I will take my dog for a walk."

She will be sent off in style - a lunch is being planned in her honor on her last day.

"One thing I didn't realize is how much I have been humbled and blessed by everyone here," O'Connor said. "Everyone is so supportive and appreciative of my efforts. The community here is awesome. And to think I have touched their lives so much - I have been shocked at the response to me leaving.

"And while I'm looking forward to the future, I have promised the residents I will come back to visit - maybe for one of the morning coffees, and J. Pat asked if I would fill in when someone goes on vacation, so I will be back."

Moore said of O’Connor’s departure, “It has been a real pleasure working with Debra for the last four years. She brought a good sense of humor, compassion and understanding that our residents valued while bringing efficiency in her workflow with an attention to detail that is needed in this position.

“Many of our residents have been saddened by her leaving us, stopping by to visit with her and express their best wishes - which the Board of Directors and the staff also wish to express.”

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