Denise Burdette agreed to sit down with The Zachary Advocate & Plainsman for the “13 Questions” series.
Burdette’s supervisor and longtime friend Chris Davezac, director of public works for Zachary, sat in on the interview.
OCCUPATION: 36-year employee of the city of Zachary
JOB HISTORY: She began work as a cashier in 1979 in the utilities department, worked in billing and planning and zoning, then transferred to public works in 1992, where she has remained. She will retire Jan. 29.
BIRTHPLACE: Baton Rouge, but she moved to Baker in fifth grade.
CURRENTLY RESIDES: Zachary
FAMILY: Husband, Jimmy Burdette, adult son and daughter and seven grandchildren.
Where did you attend high school?
“Central Private. It’s where I met my husband. I like to say I ‘married Zachary’ because my husband is from Zachary.”
Do you attend church? If so, where?
“Yes, First Baptist Church of Zachary.”
Why are you retiring?
“To finally be able to do things I’ve really wanted to do and to do more things with family and friends.”
What will you do with your time?
“I plan to help people. You know, people get sick, and I feel like I can’t really be there for them like I want to be. I can’t explain it, but I feel God has something in mind for me, something he wants me to do, and I’m ready. I’m not questioning it.”
What will you miss most about your job?
“I love this job. I know everybody says this, but I’ll miss the people most. Really. Our department has been dubbed the complaint department, where people come with all their problems or complaints. But truly, I’m going to miss meeting and helping people.”
What will you miss the least about your job?
“Chris Davezac ... just kidding. What I’ll miss the least about this job is wanting to help someone but not being able to because of outside agencies and regulations making it really difficult.”
How many mayors have you worked for?
“Oh, wow, five mayors, I think. No, six. Let’s see ... Jack Breaux, who hired me; Jessie Pendergest for a few months as interim mayor; John Womack for 22 years; then Charlene Smith and Henry Martinez; and last but not least, David Amrhein.”
What was it like working for all of them?
“Well, each one was different. They all had or have different personalities. It’s basically like having six different bosses with each doing things differently.”
Can you name something valuable you gained from working here?
“Yes, friendships. There are some lifetime friendships I made while working here, friendships that have become family. Angie (Knaps) and Dianne (Womack) and Judy (Davezac), we grew up working here together and have seen a lot together. Plus, there’s a lot of people I’ll miss. It’s been a great place to work. I feel blessed to have worked here.”
Do you think its important to have a sense of humor in the workplace?
“Very important. How can you not? Yes, you have to have a sense of humor when it comes to work.”
What kind of fun have you had at your job?
“We’ve had this ongoing practical joke between Chris and I for years. The birthday rivalry, I guess you could call it, to see who could embarrass the other most when it came to wishing each other happy birthday. He would announce my birthday publicly and put the wrong age, making me older than I am.
“One year, he put an ad in the newspaper that said, ‘Look who’s turning 65.’ Or he’s put it on the marquee sign in front of our office, changing my age hourly, and has even had a wheelchair waiting for me when my family and I vacationed at the beach. But I’ve gotten him back and plenty of times, too.”
When you have spare time, how do you like to spend it?
“Traveling to visit my son in Houston, crocheting and reading. I like to read Christian or faith-based books and authors.”
Will you miss anyone in particular from your office?
“Yes, I will miss Chris. He and I are like brother and sister. I moved to the Public Works Department in 1992, Hurricane Andrew hit in ’92 and Chris started working here in ’92. It’s a year I’ll never forget, even if I wanted to. I joke, because that’s what we’ve always been able to do — laugh.”