Though she was born in Kentucky and spent the majority of her childhood living all across Canada, it was in the shadow of Pensacola Dam that Mary Jane Akin grew up.
Her father was originally from Oklahoma, but worked as a Superintendent on the Trans Canadian Pipeline, taking his family of five along for a great adventure that stretched from Quebec to British Columbia.
“It was always something different,” she said. “There were different schools, different people and traditions and different sports. I will always remember attending the Calgary Stampede in Alberta.”
Mary Jane’s parents, Curtis and Jo Ellen, returned to the United States and settled in Langley when she was 13, opening Lakeside Beverage. As the oldest of the couple’s three children, one of the first things Mary Jane noticed was the sports that she had participated in while living in Canada were not available in Oklahoma.
“There was no ice skating, snowboarding, curling or hockey. My parent’s home was four blocks from the Pensacola Dam.”
After starting her own family, Mary Jane pursued her love of math at Northeastern State University. As a student she was active in Alpha Chi, National Honor Society and received the honor of being elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most widely known academic honor society. Following her graduation, Mary Jane put her Bachelor of Science in Accounting to use when she went to work for a Certified Public Accountant in Pryor and later in Vinita. Shortly thereafter she was recruited to the Grand River Dam Authority Accounting Department.
“A friend of mine worked for GRDA and told me of an opening, so I drove to Oklahoma City and took the test. I went to work for GRDA in May of 1978,” she said. “
From that spring until this one, 35 years has passed and Mary Jane retires from GRDA as the female with the current longest service record. During that time, she has witnessed tremendous change in the Authority.
“My first payroll was for 173 people,” she said. “There are now over 500. There have also been major revisions, system changes and amazing growth.”
Her commitment to her work was recognized by her peers when she was named the 2005 Oklahoma State Payroll Professional of the year.
“It was totally unexpected and exhilarating. I had been working on the annual meeting and had no idea that I had been nominated. It was great to be recognized,” she said.
Reflecting on her career with GRDA, Mary Jane admits she will miss the people that had become like family to her over the years.
“I have enjoyed working with people and being able to interact with them. I took pride in my work.”
In retirement, Mary Jane plans to spend as much time with family and friends as possible. Her nurturing spirit will continue to support growth whether it’s in her vegetable garden, houseplants or animals. Though she doesn’t competitively raise and show her American Staffordshire’s any longer, she does see about Chester the rat terrier, Jessee the cat and three outdoors cats.
“I feed everything,” she said with a laugh.
Though Mary Jane grew up around GRDA, it wasn’t until she went to work for the Authority that she began to learn about public power and its benefits.
“I really learned about public power on the job,” she said. “It makes affordable economic growth in the area possible, without it growth would be prohibitive.”
At its April meeting, the GRDA Board of Directors honored Mary Jane with a resolution of commendation, recognizing her many years of service with GRDA. All the GRDA employees also take this opportunity to wish Mary Jane the best of luck in her retirement.
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