A few years after graduating from Commerce High School, Debbie Shepard began searching for a career that would suit her detailed nature and satisfy her curiosity. She found it in the emerging field of Computer Science and enrolled in the program at Northeastern Oklahoma A & M College in Miami, Oklahoma.
“Computer Science was an up and coming field and even though it was considered a man’s field, I knew I wanted to get in on the ground floor. It was the most current technology and I wanted to be a part of it” she said. “The logic and preciseness appealed to me.”
Upon graduation she worked for a computer center developing software for retail customers. Later, she managed the Information Technology Department (IT) at Doss & Price. Though she enjoyed writing software for multiple companies, she wasn’t quite convinced she was writing it in the right place. A friend, who had recently begun working for the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) started recruiting her for the recently formed department. In the fall of 1986, Debbie became the seventh computer programmer in the Authority’s history.
“It just fit me,” she said. “I had always heard it was good to change jobs about every four years, but GRDA met all of my needs and I stayed.”
For the past 27 years, she has witnessed and been a part of amazing changes in her field as well as for the Authority. As she joins the ranks of the retired on May 1, Debbie takes a lot of pride in her work and contributing to the Authority’s ability to serve its customers more efficiently.
“I have really enjoyed working for GRDA, and have always been really proud to say that I worked here,” she said. “I have met some extraordinary people since I went to work here.”
Traveling and family figure significantly into Debbie’s retirement plans. She and husband Tony will be sailing to Alaska this summer. The trip will give them a chance to celebrate her retirement, her birthday and an early anniversary. The couple, who renewed their acquaintance after dating nearly 30 years ago, will celebrate their 5th anniversary shortly after arriving home. Together they have six children and four grandchildren. But, in April, they received some exciting news that will increase that number.
“We knew that we had one grandchild on the way. But, we found out at Easter that we have two more on the way. I was blown away, after all of my hounding,” she laughed. “We will have seven grandchildren by the end of the year.”
Though the summer trip will mark her 15th trip aboard a cruise ship; Debbie enjoys traveling by car as well. She admits that maybe it’s the actual planning of the trip that she enjoys most.
“It may be the programmer in me, but I love the planning! I love doing the research, finding out what we can do and see, where to stay, all of the details.”
There is one trip in particular that she would love to repeat with those grandchildren in a few years.
“We took all of our kids on a trip to California in 2009, taking our time and stopping all along the way to the Redwood Forest. It was so much fun; we would love to redo that entire trip with the grandkids.”
Though Debbie grew up around GRDA, she really had no idea about public power and its impact in Oklahoma until she went to work for the Authority. After spending her career in public power, she believes in the benefits GRDA brings to the area and the state.
At its April meeting, the GRDA Board of Directors honored Debbie with a resolution of commendation, recognizing her many years of service with GRDA. All the GRDA employees also take this opportunity to wish Debbie the best of luck in her retirement
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