Rehab news spoke with outgoing Executive Secretary LeAnne Bull – who has served under every commissioner since ADRS became a department in 1995 – a week before her retirement. A transcript of that conversation follows:
RN: LeAnne, you’ve been with our department for many years. What does “rehabilitation” mean to you?
Bull: When I was a little girl, I rode by one of our buildings and said, “I want to work there one day.” Just to play a small role in what we do everyday means a lot. It’s a blessing to know that we are touching others’ lives in a meaningful way each and every day. Rehabilitation is a blessing, and I truly love our sense of family.
RN: As you look back over your career, what’s it been like to serve in the commissioner’s office under every commissioner?
Bull: All of our commissioners have been wonderful, and they have all had unique personalities I have had the pleasure to get to know.
Lamona, she was the mother to us all. I was very young when I served with her, but I’ll always remember her as a go-getter and someone with boundless energy. With Lamona at the helm, there was never a dull moment. When we were fighting to become a department of our own, we were all up working non-stop. It was an all-hands-on-deck situation because we all knew that if we didn’t succeed, Lamona, and likely others, would lose their jobs. Under Lamona’s guidance was when I first saw the raw passion for people with disabilities. Everything we do is for the people we serve, and you have to remember that if you want to be a part of the Rehab Family.
I interviewed with Mr. Shivers twice. The first time was when he was the assistant division director, and the second time was when (previous Executive Secretary) Jacquelin Harris was retiring. Long story short, Mr. Shivers is the person who brought me back to Rehab after leaving to work at the Department of Finance for 3 years.
Mr. Shivers is the most humble person I have ever met. He was always working. He was up working well before my starting time, and late into the night, as well. I never saw him as just my boss – he was my friend. Mr. Shivers was a huge help to me when I lost my mom, and I knew him to be someone who would never ask you to do anything he wasn’t willing to do himself.
Winona Nelson was our interim commissioner for only about three months, but we’ve been friends forever. She is the most loyal person you will ever meet. She’s a highly ethical person and was well respected. I know she only served in the office as a transition from Mr. Shivers to Dr. B [Cary Boswell], but she’s been a true friend to me for as long as I’ve been at Rehab.
Boswell – Dr. B as I knew him – was someone who also had a ton of energy. He also seemed to have the biggest heart, and it was a true pleasure to work for him. It was almost as if we could read each other’s minds. We were in lock-step together, and he was – and is – a great, great person. Dr. B was also there for me through the death of my dad and my precious nephew. I can’t begin to thank him for everything he and the department did for me during that incredibly difficult time.
And as for Jane Elizabeth, I’ll say that she is exactly what this department needs right now. She is well-liked, has a true heart for consumers, and is a real go-getter. She will take this department to whole new heights. I am 100 percent sure of that.
When you work for someone as closely as I have worked with our commissioners, you know just about everything about them. You not only know about their work meetings, but you also schedule their trips to hair dressers. Something that always kept me a little nervous was knowing that whenever we got a new commissioner, I could be sent packing. Now, I had reversion rights to fall back to an ASA III job, but there was a question of, “Will they keep me?” All in all, it has been a pleasure to serve them all, and I’ll forever be indebted to them for what they have done for me. It’s been a wonderful experience.
RN: What will you miss the most when you leave?
Bull: I’m going to miss the one-on-one with the commissioner. I’m going to miss being that extra hand for them. This desk’s sole purpose is to make them look good. When Jane Elizabeth is walking through my office, my role is to hand her folder to her to make sure she has everything she needs. I’m constantly texting/communicating with her. My goal is to always stay one step ahead at all times, and I hope that I have done that while I was here. I have certainly tried my best to do that.
RN: What’s your fondest memory of your time at Rehab?
Bull: Without a doubt, that would be the many late nights we spent together when we were fighting to become a department. We all stayed up listening to the debates in the Senate. We listened to Mrs. Lucas.
We heard Mr. Shivers say, “It was a good day at Rehab.” We all believed it, too. Like I said before, if we didn’t succeed, Lamona would have lost her job. We were fighting for her sake, but really our consumers would have paid the most. We knew whole-heartedly that we could better serve them as a stand-alone agency, and that was what we were fighting for in that moment.
On a lighter note, another fond memory of mine is that of Jim 3 (retired Assistant Commissioner Jim Harris III) prank-calling me. He would call me out of the blue with all sorts of crazy things, and I would fall for it every single time. He was so much fun to work with, and I’ll always remember him for having the biggest heart. A lot of us miss him dearly.
RN: And how do you want to be remembered by your peers?
Bull: Just a smidgeon of Carl Nowell. He was so well-loved, so highly regarded. Everyone who knew him loved and respected him, and if people saw me – even just a tiny bit – in that same way, then I would feel so honored. I just want people to remember me as someone who helped them do their jobs a little better and as someone who always served others to the best of my ability.
RN: As you part ways with us, what’s next for you in your life?
Bull: I’m going to go home and be mama. I’m going to take my 15-year-old to school and pick him up. I’ll maybe take a couple of trips. Really, I’m just going to wait and see what God has in store for me.
RN: LeAnne, is there anything else you’d like to add that you haven’t already said?
Bull: It’s funny that you ask that, because right now, I’m thinking about my role as secretary for the Alabama Board of Rehabilitation Services, which I have also been since the first day Mr. Shivers served as our commissioner. In that time, I’ve never missed a single board meeting. Not one. Whether it is luck or good health, I have been fortunate enough to attend all of our board meetings in that time. Now, I can’t say that I baked a pound cake for each of those meetings, but I was there to verify the quorum and take minutes for each of them.
I’ve enjoyed working with each of our board members, and the experience has been a wonderful one. And I might just leave that pound cake recipe for Karen Freeman before I go.