News: Member Portrait

Gracelyn Sanders: Determined to Make a Difference

Monday, April 23, 2018  
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Originally published in the Spring 2018 NC Currents


When Gracelyn Sanders was hired as an Administrative Support Specialist by the City of Raleigh Public Utilities’ Sewer Maintenance Division in 2011, she was in the middle of pursuing a Master of Science in Administration (Public). Although she did not need a Master’s for her new job, she traveled every weekend to attend classes at Central Michigan University’s campus at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro – an hour away – until she completed her degree. “If I start something, I have to finish it,” explains Sanders. It is that kind of tenacity and determination that played a key role in helping the Sewer Maintenance and Division obtain ISO 14001:2015 certification, four years after she started with the City of Raleigh. “I was new to my role, having to learn a new standard myself, while working to get everyone on the same page,” she recalls. “This is a great accomplishment for the Division, as they have joined an elite few that have obtained certification to this new ISO standard.”


 Although she started off in administration, her managers – or “mentors,” as she calls them – increasingly encouraged Sanders to become involved in the program side of the organization. “I’ve always been very fortunate to work for supportive leaders who have pushed me to do more than what I was hired for,” she says. “Anything that I want to learn or want to have input in, they are behind me 100%.” This includes supporting Sanders in pursuing various certifications. She currently has her Collections II certification and plans to take the exam for Collections III this year, on the way to ultimately obtaining her Collections IV.


 “I got my Collections I when I was hired as an administrative support specialist,” she points out. “I didn’t know anything about public utilities and I wanted to learn about it.” At the same time, Sanders became involved with NC AWWA-WEA, attending the spring Collections and Distribution School in 2012. She then coordinated the vendor show for several Schools, helping register students and recruiting other volunteers to assist with registration. In 2015, she co-chaired the Publicity Committee for the Local Arrangement Committee and currently chairs the Registration Committee.


 Her dedication to the industry did not go unnoticed. In December 2016, Sanders assumed her current position as Process Control Training Officer. In this role, she serves as the Division’s Environmental Management System Representative (EMR), responsible for managing the day-to-day operation of the Sewer Maintenance Environmental Management System (SMEMS). “I want to learn more about the field operation side,” she says, “but I also want to work in a position where I can have the most impact.”


 Her new role includes monitoring the effectiveness of the SMEMS, leading the SMEMS Team, ensuring the timely completion of EMS tasks, managing the SMEMS Manual, monitoring and measuring progress on achieving objectives and targets, communicating EMS related information, and assisting in the training and development of the division’s 125 employees. “I’m still learning my new role,” says Sanders, “and I’m really enjoying it.” She notes that learning about the program and operations side is very helpful when it comes to training and development. What she likes the most about her work is the opportunity to help others get where they need to be. “I love to help them with their questions about management systems, trainings, or anything that they have concerns about,” she explains. “These people work so hard. Seeing them succeed is what makes me happy.”


 Service has always been first and foremost for Sanders. “I enjoy being a part of public health,” she notes, adding that she had originally hoped to pursue a degree in gerontology. After high school, she spent 10 years with the US Army as an Automated Logistical Supply Specialist. She then spent 11 years performing various administrative management duties with the NC State Department of Health and Human Services and with the Johnston County’s Council on Aging.

 While working full time with the Department of Health, she decided to pursue a Bachelors in Business Administration and Finance at Barton College, driving over an hour to Wilson, NC to take classes on Friday from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm and from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturday, and Sunday. At the same time, she volunteered delivering Meals on Wheels to seniors, something that she would like to start doing again in the future.

 For now, she spends as much time as she can with her grandmother who recently turned 96. Every Thanksgiving, Sanders and her family spend a week with her grandmother at the beach. “I started this tradition about six years ago,” she says. “Like me she likes to go to the beach in the fall, when it’s quiet.” Not surprisingly, even when Sanders takes some time for a much-needed rest, she still finds a way to make a difference.

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