Article published January 10, 2004
After 20 years of jail service, Johnson heads for retirement
By BENNY LEE SMITH, Staff Writer
It was the end of the road for Venelia Johnson Friday as she finished 20 years of service working as a county jail administrative assistant.
But it was also a new beginning -- retirement.
"I think I am just going to kick back next week and see how things go before I plan anything," Johnson said Friday during her retirement party at the jail.
Johnson, 62, was the county's first secretary to Spartanburg County Jail Director Larry Powers, who had started working at the county a year earlier. Johnson began working with the jail when it was located just behind the courthouse on Daniel Morgan Avenue.
"I just feel like a lot of these (jail) officers are my children," she said as people stood in line to congratulate her on her retirement.
Johnson said it was especially hard when she had to type the paperwork when an officer had to be disciplined.
"It was painful, but it's like disciplining your children. You got to do it even though it may hurt," she said.
Observers could see the close relationship she had with officers Friday. Several of them came in on their day off just to wish her well.
"Whatever you choose to do, just have fun and think of me still here working," Officer Lisa Lebo said before laughing with Johnson. "You deserve it."
Johnson has seen the transition of technology over the last two decades make her job easier.
"When I came, we had manual typewriters," she said. "So I used a lot of whiteout. We have surely come a long way since then."
When she started, she admits it was a little hard working in a jail setting.
"There was a little crying at first," she said.
After she got over the initial newness of her job, Johnson said she has never had a dull moment there and "things just got interesting every day."
One of her favorite things to do is to watch the reaction of people when they asked where she worked.
"People looked shocked when I told them that I work at the jail. They looked at me as if was an inmate," she said.
Johnson said when she took the job 20 years ago, she took it with retirement in mind.
"I never was one to switch around," she said.
One of the most challenging aspects of her job was to make sure all of the paperwork she typed up from Powers was accurate "and presented in a professional manner."
Johnson said she wants to spend time at a vacation spot in the mountains with her husband, Jimmy, who retired three years ago.
She also wants to spend some of her retirement with her two adult sons and her four grandchildren. "I just want to get to enjoy them," she said.
Benny Lee Smith can be reached at 562-7214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.