Linda Brown couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate Labor Day this weekend than to get away from it all – completely!
On Sept. 6, 1986, she joined the Monroe County Tax Collector’s office as a customer service representative in Key West and quickly worked her way up to office supervisor.
This Tuesday, August 31, Linda’s office was filled with bouquets of roses, baskets of flowers, good luck cards and a stream of phone calls from colleagues asking her last minute questions and bidding her farewell.
“I’m really going to miss working with the public,” she confessed, adding that she often labors to get mandatory paperwork done in her office so she can spend extra time in the lobby chatting with customers.
She proudly admitted that seasonal Florida Keys residents are often astounded when they return each year to pay their annual assessments and always see smiling faces perched behind the customer service counters.
“I always remind the girls that it’s our customers that fund our paychecks, so service with a smile is so important,” Brown said.
After traveling up and down the Keys for the past 24 years as part of her job, she added that besides working with the public, she’ll most miss her co-workers.
“These girls,” she waved her hand toward the front of the office, “have become like a family to me.”
A native of Iowa, this military brat spent parts of her childhood education in Key West schools. But since her family was obligated to travel where her father was told, Linda moved to St. Cloud just south of Orlando when she was in 11th grade.
Her roots in Marathon, however, seem long established since her grandparents, Goldie and Oscar Kenruse, actually grew up in Marathon.
Of course, like any good Keys resident, she added that her favorite way to spend her free time is on a boat trying to hook the big one. The break room in the Tax Collector’s office reminds all the staff of Linda’s fishing prowess.
“That’s my 140-pound marlin,” she pointed out. “I was really proud of that.”
Her husband of 22 years, Duane Brown, however, doesn’t share her love of sport fishing.
“I love to be on the water, but no, we don’t fish together,” she laughed. “He’s good for free chum, though!”
Linda plans to spend retirement pursuing her other true passion – photography. Last year, she staked out bridges along our island chain to capture the perfect image, 2009’s very first sunrise.
“Now that’s dedication,” she laughed, remembering how she found the strategic shooting position. “I like to take pictures of our landscape, and now I’m really getting into birds and flowers.”
After packing up her office and bidding farewell to her co-workers on Tuesday, Linda promptly headed home to pack for a resort vacation to Orlando.
“I figured it would be good to get away, because a lot of people who retire say the hardest part is breaking the routine of getting up and going to work,” she said.
Two other life-changing prompts for her retirement announcement were the passing of her dear mother and her close friend she recently lost to a massive heart attack.
“She was only 50!” Linda exclaimed. “I told Duane that was it, that life is too short and it was time for me to get out and enjoy it!”
After she returns from her vacation, this mother of two and grandmother of two more will likely be found aboard The Marathon Lady trolling for fish or combing the shores for interesting photo subjects.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed working for the Monroe County tax collector, and I will miss all my co-workers in Marathon and the outlying offices,” she expressed. “It has been a great joy for me to be able to serve the public.”