By MELINDA WILLIAMS
“I never would’ve thought I’d be here 34 years when I took the job at 18,” said Pulaski County Zoning Administrator Melody Taylor, who retired at the end of June. “It seems like it was yesterday. Time has flown by.”
Of course, Taylor wore a number of hats throughout her county employment before settling in as zoning administrator in 2007. For her retirement years, she said, she has a number of plans up her sleeve.
Upon graduating from Pulaski County High School in 1979, Taylor applied for a job in the then newly forming Pulaski County Planning Department. She was hired July 23 of that year although she jokes that she isn’t sure if it was because she was the most qualified or the most annoying.
“I kept driving the planner crazy – calling him every other week or every day – asking him if the position had been filled. I don’t know if he gave me the job because I drove him crazy or because I was the best one out of the applicants,” she said.
Over the early years, Taylor moved around to various departments that were in transition. She spent several months at New River Valley Airport, doing some much needed filing and clerking for the airport commission until they could hire someone for that job.
She worked in the Commissioner of the Revenue and Treasurer’s offices, the PSA office and the Section 8 rental assistance office before taking over as Section 8 housing administrator when Valerie Cox left. Management of Section 8 housing was eventually turned over to the private sector, so Taylor essentially ended up back where she started – the building and zoning department.
Taylor successfully applied for the zoning administrator position when Dari Jenkins left for another job. Other than training sessions through the National Association of Zoning Officials, Taylor’s years of experience working with the planning department provided her with the experience and knowledge she needed for the job.
“It’s definitely been a learning experience, but I’ve enjoyed it,” she said of the job. “I’ve kind of mellowed over the years and gotten a little softer; and I’ve changed.”
One thing she learned was that many of the county’s citizens are unaware zoning exists despite the number of years it has been in place. It was implemented on the south side of Claytor Lake in 1989 and across the rest of the county a year later.
“It’s very hard to tell someone they’re not able to do something on their property because it’s not allowed in their zoning district,” she said. “They don’t understand that they’ve done it in the past or their parents did it in the past, but now they can’t.
“It’s been a challenge for some people, but most understand when you explain it to them,” she added about zoning. “It has its pros and its cons, but it’s not as restrictive as people think it is.”
While she has enjoyed her job, Taylor said, “I’m ready to start another chapter in my life.”
One of the ideas she has in mind involves working with flowers and plants; possibly by starting her own greenhouse business or working for a florist.
She also wants to become more involved in community work in Carroll County, where she and husband, Wayne, have lived a number of years. The Lutheran church she attends has asked her to help with some projects and she would like to get more involved with visiting those who aren’t able to attend church.
Her love of reading to children could find her getting involved in substitute teaching. This was a suggestion of her daughter, Cerylla, who is a teacher. Her other daughter, Holly, helps out with the children’s program at Pulaski County Library.
Given her experience with planning, Taylor said she may get involved with the planning commission in Carroll County, even though it’s one of the few Virginia counties without zoning.
She also started working the polls during recent elections and enjoys that.
“I’ve got quite a few things up my sleeve, but I don’t know which ones will pan out,” said Taylor. Of course, she plans to provide assistance to her mother, who lives in Dublin, and she hopes “there’ll be some ‘me’ time, as well.”
She continued, “At least I don’t have to set the alarm clock for 4 o’clock in the morning.” It was her choice to arrive at work between 5:30-6 a.m. each morning. She explained that she could get more work done before the business day got started.
“We all wear so many hats that it gets hectic. You can never come in here and just have a planned day,” she said.
The 30-minute drive to and from work gave her a chance to get fully awake “dodging the deer (in the road)” and to wind down at the end of the day.
Her husband of 31 years works for Pulaski County School System as head custodian at Critzer Elementary and will continue to make the drive to Pulaski County at least for a few more years. He has been with the school system about 15-16 years.
When they are both retired, Taylor said she would like to do some traveling if it pans out.
Basically, though, she said she plans to “Place myself in the Lord’s hand and let him take it a day at a time.”