By ALICIA LEONARD
Many say they are going to Disney when they reach a momentous life event, but to Walton School District Superintendent Carlene Anderson, spending an evening and celebrating 41 years of service serving local schools, kids, and constituents with family, friends, and colleagues was for a few hours the happiest place on earth.
“I told them I wanted a party. Let’s celebrate,” Anderson smiled and joked with the audience when asked to share a few words at the reception held in her honor the evening of Nov. 9, 2016 at the Wise Center.
Tables laden with gifts, cards, heavy hors d’oeuvres, and center pieces made by and representing each school in the district welcomed guests of all ages and walks of life that had formed a rich tapestry representing parts of Anderson’s long and distinguished service.
Starting out in 1975, Anderson first entered the educational arena as a teacher’s aid, and worked her way up to a paraprofessional, part-time teacher, teacher and school principal before she sought office in 2004. She told the audience that she felt a physical pull to be a part of the educational system in Walton County.
“I literally ache every morning to come to my job and work with the teachers, staff, and students that make up our district,” she said. Many times while Anderson praised her colleagues for their support, she was smiling through her tears.
Board member Gail Smith told guests about Anderson being the driving force behind the alternative learning center, establishing the internet technology department, and overseeing the building of six schools in 12 years among her many accomplishments..
Board member Mark Davis spoke of Anderson’s work ethic. He said he once went searching for her only to discover she had been admitted to the hospital for pneumonia. He recalled scolding her for working herself sick when he got to her hospital bedside.
Steve Vaggalis, Anderson’s pastor from Destiny Worship Center, kept the lighthearted feel of the celebration going when he joked the church’s prayer list would decrease upon her retirement, but only until he could lure her out to work again.
Anderson’s family including her husband, Buck Anderson, along with daughter Kara Richetti and son-in-law Ryan Richetti surrounded the guest of honor for a final photo before they sat down to enjoy the beautiful buffet prepared for the occasion. Still, all eyes were on the superintendent and her bright smile, expressing the joy she felt as she was celebrated by those with whom she spent a majority of her work life in education.
By ALICIA LEONARD