Rock Beats

Linda Gunther Q&A: Reflecting on 32 years with the City

Linda Gunther with family and friend: (from left) Barbara Pennington; Linda’s daughter Jill McCune and her husband Terry
Linda Gunther, benefits manager with Human Resources, retired on June 30 after 32 years with the City of Round Rock. Here she looks back on her career with the City.

Q. Where are you from originally?
I am from Springfield, Massachusetts. My husband, Terry, and I are both from the New England area. We came to Texas because of my husband’s job with the phone company. We had never even visited Texas when we first considered the move. We had two young children, Jill and Brian, and we wanted a good place to raise a family. When an opportunity came up for Terry in Austin, friends told us it was a very nice area. We took it and drove down here with our children and dog Joana.

Q. When did you join the City?
I started here in September 1979. 

We had just bought a home in Round Rock because we heard it was the best place for little children.

I have a business and finance background and I saw an opening for a position with the City of Round Rock just a few weeks after moving here. David Kautz [former Assistant City Manager and Chief Financial Officer] hired me for the Finance Department, which had only three people at the time.

My primary duties were payroll and accounts payable and occasionally I would help out with water billing and municipal court. We had fewer than 100 employees. There was no human resources department at the time.

Q. How did the Human Resources Department develop?
That’s an interesting story. The City was growing very rapidly and we were adding 50 or 60 employees at a time. Labor laws began changing around that time as well.

I was involved with a lot of Human Resource task such as recruitment, compensation, benefits, workers comp and on the job safety. I would find myself dealing with employees who often had personal issues and needed privacy. That concerned me because I wanted to respect people’s privacy. But we were really crammed into our space and didn’t have much room.

So, I looked around our old building and saw that we had two closets that Parks and Rec used to store basketballs. I asked David if we could convert those closets into offices so I could have a private place for meeting with employees.

That really started the separation into a Human Resources-focused area. We began to work on more personnel issues like creating an employee policy manual. It began to evolve from there into a separate department.

My role has evolved as well. I became payroll supervisor for about 10 years and then I was personnel manager for about 10 years and finally benefits manager. I was fortunate to start when the City was small and be able to be involved in so many aspects.

Q. What was the City like when you started?
Being as small as it was, it was much easier to really know everybody. You had a lot of interaction with each other. It really took teamwork because of the growth. Everybody had to work together on various areas. You didn’t just have one area of responsibility. Teamwork was the key.

As the City grew, it was harder and harder to keep that closeness. But for me, I feel very fortunate that I was able to have that closeness with people throughout the City.

Q. What would you say has been the biggest change in the City since you started?
I’d say the improvement in the tools and equipment that we have available. Employees now should see what we had to deal with then. Today, we have state of the art equipment in so many areas throughout the City. We’re very fortunate.

The City has come a long way. Round Rock is really on the map and I’m proud to have been a part of it.

Q. What are you proudest of in your career?
When you asked that, I couldn’t help but think of a specific incident. I remember one time an employee was having a very difficult time. His child was hospitalized longer than necessary because the medical staff thought our insurance paid 100 percent of costs when in fact it didn’t. He ended up being hit with a $25,000 hospital bill. His family had already sold personal belongings to try to deal with this bill.

I worked with him and researched the case. I found out the child did not need to be hospitalized for the issue. He could have been treated using outpatient services. I was able to have the employee reimbursed for his costs and the $25,000 bill written off. I was so pleased to be able to help him.

And there are many stories like that, that I have been involved with. There have been so many co-workers throughout my years at the City that touched my life in one way or another, both professionally and personally; you all have really inspired me. I worked very close to employees in dealing with life’s struggles and was always amazed at their faith and endurance to move forward.

It is so important for employees to understand their benefits. They really need to understand and question what’s going on with their healthcare, retirement and other benefits.

What do you like best about working at the City?
The people. I’ve had great co-workers. I have a good rapport with everyone here. It’s been an exciting and ever-changing time.

What are your plans for retirement?
I’m going to travel with my husband and visit family in Massachusetts. My husband has been retired for three years. We’ll visit Cape Cod and spend time there.

I’ll also continue to do volunteer work.  In the past I’ve been a hot line crisis counselor for eight years and may continue with that work.

I have three grandchildren and I want to spend time with them.  My son, Brian, is in Fort Worth and my daughter, Jill, is in Austin.

I think now is just the right time for me to retire. I had a plan and a goal for my retirement and I’ve met it.  I still love my job and my co-workers, so what better time to say good bye? I will always have the best memories to reflect back on.

Any final thoughts?
I just want to encourage all employees to take advantage of the City’s benefits like our deferred comp plan and others. We have truly great benefits available but employees need to make the most of them.

I will reflect back on my great experience that I gained here as well as the wonderful friends and co- workers. Thank you, all.

At Linda’s retirement party, a proclamation was read that was signed by Mayor Alan McGraw. See text below.

City of Round Rock Official Proclamation

Know all men by these presents:

WHEREAS, Linda E. Gunther is retiring from the City of Round rock after 31 years, 9 months and 21 days of exceptional service; and

WHEREAS, Linda began her career with the City of Round Rock as a Payroll Clerk; and she will end here career a Human Resources Benefits Manager and the current most tenured employee; and

WHEREAS, early in her career with the City, when there were no rules in place for a particular issue or process, Linda made up the rules; and

WHEREAS, Linda volunteered with the Round Rock Police Department as a Victims Services Advocate AND while representing the City of Round Rock, Linda served on numerous boards, committees, and community projects including TMPA Awards and Scholarship Committee for the City of University Park, the Texas Municipal League Awards & Scholarships committee, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association Lock-Up fundraising; and

WHEREAS, Linda has set the standard for providing outstanding customer service to all City employees and their families, by listening to employee concerns and going above and beyond to find solutions to their problems; and

WHEREAS, Linda has made such a positive difference in the lives of others through every smile and act of support she has shown; and

WHEREAS, Linda has been happily married to Terry for over 40 years, they have a daughter, Jill, and a son, Brian; and three beautiful grandchildren; Chance, Addison and Bailey; and we have determined that Linda is a great person who deserves to be happy every day of the year; and

NOW, THEREFORE, ALAN MCGRAW, Mayor of the City of Round Rock, on behalf of the Round Rock City Council, do hereby wish Linda a healthy, happy and prosperous retirement from the City, and many opportunities to occupy her time now that she is retired; and that retirement leaves Linda much more time to travel, make jewelry, and spend time with her grandchildren.

PROCLAIMED this 30th day of June 2011.

City of Round Rock, Texas