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Business Briefcase (April 27, 2014)

Published on -4/27/2014, 3:04 PM

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John Rome, equipment mechanic specialist, recently was recognized for having 40 years of state service with the Kansas Department of Transportation. Rome is the supervisor for the Hays area shop.

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The Kansas Department of Commerce and the Older Worker Task Force hosted the 17th annual Older Worker Awards ceremony Thursday in Topeka. Seven individuals, three businesses and two Older Kansans Employment Program providers were recognized for their contributions to the Kansas workforce and economy at the ceremony. The honorees recognized at the awards ceremony were selected from an applicant pool that included workers age 55 and older employed in both public and private-sector jobs, as well as businesses and companies that regularly employ workers age 55 and older. Honorees with area ties include Robert Oleen, Dwight, who won the Kansas Oldest Worker award. Oleen was born in Fallon in 1918. At age 8, he lost his leg in a farming accident. Overcoming the challenges posed by the tragedy, Oleen washed dishes in restaurants and hotels in Hays and Wichita to work his way through college, and graduated from the Wichita Business College in 1937. Later that year, he started his banking career at Farmers State Bank in Dwight, initially working as a teller and janitor. Nine years later, he was put in charge of the bank and maintained that position until 1971, when his son, Jan, took the reins. Oleen works 30 hours per week at the bank and always can be found in his office by 8 a.m., including Saturday. He continues to ardently study bond and stock markets. Patricia Nichols, Alton, was awarded posthumously the Outstanding Older Worker award. Nichols was born in Salida, Colo., in 1942. She worked much of her life, and at age 65, chose to seek new employment rather than retire. She began working at Nex-Tech Wireless in Hays and became lead of customer care. In addition to her work, she participated in community fundraisers, events, contests, community theater and many other activities. Nichols demonstrated outstanding commitment and dedication to her work and her community. She died March 20. Virginia Smith, Kensington, was named an Exemplary Older Worker honoree. Smith was born in Parsons in 1946. She graduated from Labette County High School in 1964 and went to visit family for the summer in Kensington. She applied for a summer job in Phillipsburg and was called the next morning to come to work. She has worked for Midwest Energy since that day. Smith started her career with Midwest Energy as a keypunch operator, receiving IBM punch cards from area service districts and converting them to accurate customer bills, prepared with a manual typewriter and carbon paper. After being promoted to secretary for the regional director, she learned new computer skills including word processing and email. In 1992, Smith was promoted to scheduler for gas service technicians, a job that included preparing records for Kansas Corporation Commission filings. In the late 1990s, she wanted to work again with customers, and transitioned into her position as customer service representative, where she is lauded by her coworkers for her excellent service.

The Kansas Department of Commerce and the Older Worker Task Force hosted the 17th annual Older Worker Awards ceremony Thursday in Topeka. Seven individuals, three businesses and two Older Kansans Employment Program providers were recognized for their contributions to the Kansas workforce and economy at the ceremony. The honorees recognized at the awards ceremony were selected from an applicant pool that included workers age 55 and older employed in both public and private-sector jobs, as well as businesses and companies that regularly employ workers age 55 and older. Honorees with area ties include Robert Oleen, Dwight, who won the Kansas Oldest Worker award. Oleen was born in Fallon in 1918. At age 8, he lost his leg in a farming accident. Overcoming the challenges posed by the tragedy, Oleen washed dishes in restaurants and hotels in Hays and Wichita to work his way through college, and graduated from the Wichita Business College in 1937. Later that year, he started his banking career at Farmers State Bank in Dwight, initially working as a teller and janitor. Nine years later, he was put in charge of the bank and maintained that position until 1971, when his son, Jan, took the reins. Oleen works 30 hours per week at the bank and always can be found in his office by 8 a.m., including Saturday. He continues to ardently study bond and stock markets. Patricia Nichols, Alton, was awarded posthumously the Outstanding Older Worker award. Nichols was born in Salida, Colo., in 1942. She worked much of her life, and at age 65, chose to seek new employment rather than retire. She began working at Nex-Tech Wireless in Hays and became lead of customer care. In addition to her work, she participated in community fundraisers, events, contests, community theater and many other activities. Nichols demonstrated outstanding commitment and dedication to her work and her community. She died March 20. Virginia Smith, Kensington, was named an Exemplary Older Worker honoree. Smith was born in Parsons in 1946. She graduated from Labette County High School in 1964 and went to visit family for the summer in Kensington. She applied for a summer job in Phillipsburg and was called the next morning to come to work. She has worked for Midwest Energy since that day. Smith started her career with Midwest Energy as a keypunch operator, receiving IBM punch cards from area service districts and converting them to accurate customer bills, prepared with a manual typewriter and carbon paper. After being promoted to secretary for the regional director, she learned new computer skills including word processing and email. In 1992, Smith was promoted to scheduler for gas service technicians, a job that included preparing records for Kansas Corporation Commission filings. In the late 1990s, she wanted to work again with customers, and transitioned into her position as customer service representative, where she is lauded by her coworkers for her excellent service.

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