Betty Filbrandt to Step Down After 33 Years of Service to BPW; Brownville Native Melissa Sierks is Stepping In
After more than three decades, Betty Filbrandt will be resigning from the Auburn Board of Public Works as the accounting and finance manager. And, she said she is leaving with much confidence in her successor, Melissa Sierks.
Betty, 66, began her tenure at the BPW on Dec. 29, 1976, which allowed her to see the company reach the year end.
To get the position, Betty had to go through the interview process twice. She said when she started Lambert Blecha was the general manager and he hired someone else but then he eventually called her back to interview again and she was then offered the position. At the time, Betty’s position was labeled as office manager. She said she had the same duties as she does now, just a different title.
Betty, a native of Colon, and her husband, Dick, moved to Auburn in 1965. They relocated to Auburn after Dick and Betty’s brother Darrell Striggow purchased a body shop, which they would rename D&D Body Shop in east Auburn.
Prior to working at the BPW, Betty worked for about 11 years at the Auburn Family Health Clinic.
During her 33 years at the BPW, Betty has worked for three general managers – Blecha, Jim Dietz and current manager David Hunter, Jr.,
As to when her last official day will be, Betty said she still hadn’t made a decision as of early May. However, she expects it to be some time in the middle of June.
“I want to make sure (Melissa) is comfortable,” Betty said.
Thinking about what she will miss the most about going to the office every day, Betty readily says she will miss the women she has worked with for years. Combined, the women in the office have served the BPW for 104 years – Mary Michel, 36 years; Connie Searcey, 25 years; Susan Jones, 18 years and Sunshine Taylor, two years.
And, working with the same women day in and day out was something Betty enjoyed and helped make the work environment better.
“I work with a really good crew and a great boss,” Betty said.
Betty said she will also miss being active in organizations she has been involved with through the BPW, including the Nebraska League of Municipalities, in which she has served as former chairwoman of the finance committee and the former president of the utilities committee.
In her position, Betty spends about 45 hours a week juggling a little of everything, including keeping the books up to date, writing the monthly newsletter, taking and typing the minutes of the board minutes and working closely with the customers.
Over the years, Betty has seen many changes at the BPW, in addition to the three general manager changes. She has watched improvements made to the power plant, including the installation of two multi-million dollar engines, as well as watching the water plant double in size over the years. Most recently, she has watched improvements made to the BPW’s water and wastewater treatment plants.
For her personally, the main change has been the everyday routine work going from a paper tape machine to the use of a computer.
She recalled the room that is now a storage-type area was once the computer room. And, technology has progressed so much over the years, the BPW board is now considering going paperless at meetings.
Since starting, Betty said the number of BPW customers has increased slightly. But, the biggest difference about the customers which the BPW serves is there are now more transient residents. And, she said that trend continues to grow.
After retiring, Betty said she plans to devote a lot of time to her family, including her two grown children, Jeff and Jodee, her eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Visitors to the Filbrandt’s home will most likely find Betty out in her flower gardens after she retires.
Betty said she will always find something to do and can’t imagine boredom seeping into her life, as she will find time to volunteer and travel with her husband, who retired a year ago.
“I’m just looking forward to not being structured, that’s why we are not making plans right now,” Betty said.
Betty is leaving the BPW with a few tidbits of advice for other career women:
• Keeping a sense of humor is very important.
• Be true to yourself. Follow the rules of the organization, but always do what you know is right.
• If you are loyal to the organization, the organization will be loyal to you.
After being away from Nemaha County for many years, Brownville native Melissa Sierks has come back home. And, after encouragement from friends and family members, she applied for the accounting and finance manager position at the BPW.
Her predecessor, Betty, who participated in the hiring process, said Melissa was hired as her replacement because of Sierks’ work experience and that she appreciated her values.
“She has great experience in accounting and she has good values,” Betty said. “We found in her reliability and integrity and that speaks well of a person. She allows me to leave guilt free.”
Melissa, 39, is a 1996 graduate of Northwest Missouri State University, where she received two degrees, a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting and a Bachelor’s of Science in Finance.
For the majority of her career, Melissa has been employed in the sub-prime lending industry, working as an account manager for a loan servicing company, which focused on auto loans and credit cards.
Melissa has passed the required federal and state level exams needed in order to obtain the license for a general securities representative. She does not maintain the license at this time, she said, because she is not working actively with investments.
Melissa, an avid Husker football fan, returned to southeast Nebraska in August of 2009 to be closer to family, especially her parents Dorothy and John Sierks of Brownville. And, since coming home, she has been helping her brother Lonnie and father farm.
Melissa also added that she has missed the area, which was another reason for coming back.
“I love the small town living. I’ve missed it horrendously,” Melissa said. “I enjoy the country living. I really did. It’s an adjustment but I like it.”
Melissa’s first official day at the BPW was April 19. And so far, she is enjoying her new role. However, she realizes the big shoes she is filling.
“She’s done a terrific job and I’m glad she will be able to enjoy retirement,” Melissa said. “(Betty) has been so helpful and she knows when I need to reign in my enthusiasm. I won’t know all that she knows because she’s been here 33 years. That’s amazing.”
And, it too is her experience in financing and accounting that Melissa feels she is capable of being successful at the BPW. She said she is very familiar with the new database and software the BPW launched earlier this year.
“It feels like I am coming home to a comfortable old friend,” Melissa said of the software program.