May Smith, a 85 year-old Black woman from Texas, will celebrate 65 years of service as a federal employee this year, one of the longest terms in U.S. government.
In a news release, federal officials said Smith, who works for the Environmental Protection Agency, is currently senior environmental employment grantee in the water division, and administrative assistant for the Wetlands Program.
Her contributions include the development of a streamlined payment process for needy homeowners during disasters, a public administration rule change that allowed the elderly parents of federal employees facing relocation to receive allowances, the creation of a computerized travel advance system for HUD workers, and the enforcement of ‘administrative leave’ for workers suffering from jet lag after a full day’s travel or overseas expedition.
“Throughout my career I’ve always remembered one thing: the only place you’ll find success before work is in the dictionary,” Smith said in a written statement. “I am constantly trying to improve myself and always hoping that other women are as well.”
She has worked for the federal government since 1944 and has held positions with what is now the U.S. Air Force, the U.S Marine Corps, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and EPA.
The mother of five has always had a passion for empowering women and minorities, writing a groundbreaking thesis on the barriers women of color face in government agencies while a graduate student at the University of San Francisco.
Federal officials say Smith’s thesis was the first examination of minority women in federal agencies and her recommendations have been supported by Equal Employment Opportunity officers. There is no mandatory retirement age for federal employees.
“Every time I think about May and what she’s accomplished despite many hardships and obstacles, my spirit is uplifted,” Wendell Smith, Smith’s friend and colleague said in a statement. “She has been and still is a role model for me and so many other people.”
Smith, who currently works as a program coordinator within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Pacific Southwest Region, is still going strong. Her next goal, she said, is to earn a doctoral degree in public administration and pursue a career in politics.
“I have one primary goal left and that is to obtain a doctorate…I’d like to continue working and making a contribution while I reach my goal. I’ll stop when my body tells me it’s time to stop.”