A decision 47 years ago to enter the public service instead of teaching at a private institution reaped ???sweet dividends??? for Brenda Corbin, who will retire as an Assistant Chief Electoral Officer, two positions away from the top spot.
Mrs. Corbin, who is currently on pre-retirement leave, will retire on February 1, 2016, after working her way up the proverbial ladder, and is now making room for those at the lower rungs to make that climb.
She was educated at the rural St. Jude???s Primary School and the now defunct Modern High School, where she was asked to teach when she completed her schooling.
She continued: ???I went back to school to go into sixth form, but discovered that the school was no longer offering that option and I had to apply to the Barbados Community College. It was late and I was not accepted, so my other option was to look for work. I registered with the Services Commissions and during that time I was offered a teaching position at the Modern.???
From November 1968, she received three-week stints at the Ministry of Health, Labour Department and the Public Library as a clerical officer. In January 1969, she was reassigned to the Barbados Statistical Department, where she spent 18 years. There, she worked as a senior clerk most of the time, dealing with accounts and personnel matters.
She acted as an Executive Officer on a few occasions, and then she was transferred on promotion to the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) in September 1987, where she worked in that post until she moved up the ranks to Senior Executive Officer and then Assistant Chief Electoral Officer. She acted in the latter position from 1996 and was appointed in the post in 2007.
She has acted as Deputy and Chief Electoral Officer on a few occasions but has enjoyed her supporting role of assisting persons in those positions to help her department shine.??She has worked with seven chiefs and was secretary to the EBC from 1988 until the Board???s appointment expired on April 22, 2015.
Mrs. Corbin has received training in Accounts, Personnel Management, Human Resources, Statistics, National Insurance and Social Security. She also completed a certificate course in public administration at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus; and she attended an election management course in the UK and a similar workshop in Mexico. She has even had the privilege of observing elections in Haiti on two occasions.
The quiet-spoken, affable woman has thoroughly enjoyed her years in the public service, saying that she never even thought about leaving to go into the private sector. She continued: ???I feel I have given the service 110 per cent; I have worked long and hard and I feel good, I feel I am in a good place to retire now and give some of the younger people an opportunity to move up.???
She lamented that even though public servants, for the most part, carry out their work with distinction, they don???t get a fair comparison with the private sector. ???I have gone into some private sector organisations and I have seen some of them operate in a substandard manner. In Electoral, we work hard, especially since we have a continuous system of registration, and once an election is announced every five years, we are under even greater pressure,??? she pointed out.
Of course, work life and challenges go hand-in-hand, and there was no exception in Mrs. Corbin???s case. But, she knows only too well that a problem and trouble free life never makes a strong person and that all challenges must be embraced and defeated. Therefore, when those human resource challenges came up, she tried to deal with them humanely, recognising that difficult people could be found in any line of work.
She continued: ???I believe in giving people an opportunity to prove themselves. When you talk to people and you reason with them, more often than not they accommodate you and do what they are supposed to do. When you are fair and reasonable, most people cooperate.???
Within her last two months at EBC, she was responsible for the supervision of the Registering Officers and that involved checking their work and ensuring files were prepared for them to go into the field to investigate. She was also responsible for preparing the officers for the introduction of the Performance Review and Development System.
After spending 28 years at the Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Mrs. Corbin???s departure is bitter sweet. She regrets that the new smart identification card has not been introduced as yet, but she is hopeful that she would be back for its launch.
She is looking forward to getting some much needed rest and taking care of those business matters she had to put on the back burner. In addition, she will continue her hobby of gardening, take a cruise or flight at intervals, and spend some time with her family, including her grand-children.
And, as Mrs. Corbin enjoys her 101 vacation days before she officially retires from the service, she has some sound advice for younger public servants, especially those who are entering the workforce now. ???Please recognise that everybody cannot start at the top. Some persons have to begin at a lower level before they graduate to a higher level; you have to work hard, be fair and be professional in whatever you do,??? she warned.
So, as Mrs. Corbin prepares to retire after nearly five decades, may this island???s workforce take to heart her wise counsel, recommit to its employers and make Barbados the best it can be.