By Lance Coleman
Sandi Groover was expecting a lunch with friends Monday. What she got was a banquet at the Hilton with more than 200 colleagues and professionals from throughout Blount County.
Groover works as administrative assistant at New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center. She had plans on Monday to eat lunch with co-workers when New Hope executive director Trudy Hughes changed those plans.
“I thought we were going out, the five of us, for lunch. Then Trudy said I had a surprise and for me to get in the car,” she said. “I ended up at the Hilton.”
The program at the Hilton was the annual luncheon for the Maryville Chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals. When Groover was named Administrative Professional of the year, she was speechless.
“I was totally shocked when they called my name. I can talk a blue streak anytime but put a microphone in front of me, and I have no voice,” she said.
Groover said she loves her job at New Hope and described it as the place where she always wanted to work. “I always wanted to be a support person. I don’t want to be anyone’s boss,” she said. “I want to do stuff behind the scenes that makes their jobs easier.”
Groover said she had a simple philosophy to her job. “I just have a belief that all people should try to make the world a better place,” she said.
Hughes said she was proud of Groover and said she really deserved the honor. “Sandi just does so much, not just in the administrative realm, but she also works with kids and families, and she’s a very giving and caring woman who always goes beyond the call of duty,” Hughes said.
Hughes said she wrote in her nomination letter that she had never heard Groover complain or refuse a task or challenge. “She’s a real pleasure to work with,” Hughes said.
Pat James with the Maryville Chapter of IAAP and an administrative assistant with the county’s mayor’s office said Groover’s colleagues said they couldn’t do their job without her. “She makes their job easier by doing her job so well,” James said.
Maryville City Manager Greg McClain was chosen as executive of the year and said he was surprised by announcement.
“I’m very flattered and very honored by it,” he said.
McClain said he was humbled because his staff nominated him. “I guess the realization that my staff nominated me is what’s most gratifying,” he said. “To be singled out by folks you work with is a great honor.”
The city manager said he was also impressed his staff kept news of the honor from him before the luncheon. “This staff has an inability to keep secrets,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t know how they did that, but they pulled this one off.”
McClain said that to be effective in a job, a person has to surround themselves with great people. “The City of Maryville has great people, folks who go the extra mile,” he said.
McClain said city employees have developed a servant’s spirit the last few years. “We’re public servants. It’s not just a job, it’s an honor to serve the community,” he said.
His administrative assistant Terri Caylor said McClain’s door is always open to every City of Maryville employee, sometimes to the extent that he works late with other responsibilities in order to keep in touch and lend a listening ear. “He is a patient, skillful listener, calm in stressful situations and a servant leader,” she said. “His humor and ability to use himself as an example makes those who enter his door immediately at ease. This is true for the many friendships Greg has established in the community while volunteering and giving his time for a number of local organizations.”
James said she’s never heard a negative comment about Greg. “Based on the letter, he was very deserving. He strikes me as being a man of integrity,” she said.
Rhonda Pitts, the 2007 administrative professional of the year for the Maryville Chapter of the IAAP, said prizes Groover got included a limo ride back to her office from Star Limousines and a dozen red roses from Coulter’s Florists. Staffing Solutions donated a certificate for a temp for a day so she can take a day off. Also included in the gifts were a gift card from Ruby Tuesday and New Horizon, a gift basket from Tender Touch and a free manicure from Salon 24. Finally, Groover got a plaque from the Maryville Chapter recognizing her as the 2008 Administrative Professional of the Year.
Maryville IAAP chapter president Marsha Wynn said the event was a success and both winners appeared surprised.
“Greg thought it was quite an honor that he took over the realm from Dave Bennett,” she said of the 2007 Executive of the Year award winner. “Sandy was very surprised, overwhelmed and thankful she was nominated. She loves what she’s doing, and she felt she was just doing her job, but we feel she definitely deserved it.”