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BATON ROUGE – When Vivian Lalonde started her career with the Department of Children & Family Services (DSS), Office of Community Services (OCS), President Eisenhower was in office, the price of oil was $3 per barrel and the U.S. Supreme Court had just ruled that Little Rock schools should integrate.
Lalonde, 69, of Arnaudville is retiring on Nov. 13 after celebrating 50 years with OCS. She is an administrative supervisor in the Lafayette Parish Office, where she has spent her entire career.
“Mrs. Lalonde is a special employee who has dedicated her life to serving Louisiana’s children and families,” said DSS Interim Secretary Kristy Nichols. “She sets a wonderful example for all state employees.”
In a recent interview, Lalonde said she joined the Department on Sept. 25, 1958, following a oneyear secretarial science course at what is now the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Eligible for retirement years ago, she never considered quitting. She finally agreed only a few weeks ago to retire after her daughter urged her to do so. Her immediate plans include moving from Arnaudville, where she has lived all her life, to Lafayette to be closer to her children.
Speaking in a quiet tone, with a distinct Cajun accent, Lalonde said she “loves her job and everything about it.”
The daughter and wife of a farmer, she only briefly considered another occupation. And, she was never tempted to quit OCS.
“I thought about being a teacher when I was in high school,” she said. “At that time if you wanted to be a teacher you had to take sciences, and I hated sciences. I said, ‘that’s not for me.’”
Although she began her office duties on an “old black typewriter,” she said she hasn’t had any trouble adjusting to DSS’ computer system and said “it’s better than writing in pencil.” She does, however, keep an electric typewriter nearby for tasks like typing forms.
She answers her emails more promptly than her younger colleagues, according to her supervisor, Lorrie Briggs. She added that Lalonde “knows so many things about the way our operation is run.”
With the exception of an annual vacation and maternity leave, Briggs estimated Lalonde has only missed 10 days during her half-century career. Her daily office routine begins at 7:30 a.m., or earlier, when she turns on the computer. Each afternoon before she leaves, she organizes her papers neatly into stacks on her desk so that she kick off the next day in high gear.
“She’s one of the first to arrive in the mornings and one of the last to leave,” Briggs said. “She has such a positive attitude, and she values hard work – which makes her special and unique. She is so well respected in this office.”
Called “Ms. Viv” by her co-workers, Lalonde supervises six employees, and said she has seen many workers come and go over the years.
What attributes make a successful OCS worker?
“You have to love children, and you can’t let people get to you,” Lalonde said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t let the job get to you. The state is a good place to work, but you have to love children and want to help their parents to better their situation.’”