LAURINBURG — Looking at the job descriptions, it might sound like a mass exodus from the Scotland County Health Department. The clerk to the county health board has left, as well as the department’s lead personnel officer. Ditto the HIPPA officer, the deputy registrar of vital statistics and the director’s executive assistant.
When Lynda Bostic McMillan retired Friday after 29 years, she relinquished all those responsibilities, “and others as assigned,’’ she joked, looking back on a career in which she started at the health department’s reception desk.
“She’s definitely one of my right-hand people,’’ said Dave Jenkins, Director for the Scotland County Health Department for the past year. “She’ll definitely be missed. I’ve actually learned a lot from her.’’
Jenkins said last week that he had already assigned some of McMillan’s duties to other staffers, and she’s helped to train her replacement, Benita Mullis, who starts Wednesday.
“We stole her from the city,’’ McMillan said with a chuckle, referring to Mullis’ job with Laurinburg’s personnel office.
“I’m excited,’’ Mullis said last Friday. “I can’t wait to get started. I’m ready.’’
McMillan couldn’t wait for Mullis to get started either, mentioning plans on visiting Boone with her husband, John, in their Fleetwood Discovery RV.
“One of the hardest things I’ve had to do is wear so many hats,’’ McMillan said. “And the state has said we need to take some of those duties out of the director’s office,’’ the focal point of most – but not all – of her job duties.
Jenkins is the seventh health department director McMillan has worked for, not counting interim directors. She said she got along with all but one, but she’s not saying who.
“He’s been gone a long while,’’ she said. “But he got me so mad I said a bad word. But I meant what I said. He was a nitpicker.’’
Despite that single exception, McMillan has had a lot of practice keeping her cool. Her life journey began 62 years ago when she was born in Pinehurst, the first of three children. By age 6, the family moved to Aberdeen, then to Charlotte for two years and, finally, to Columbia, S.C., where her father found a job with a relative.
But a settled family life was not to last. Her mother died of a brain tumor at age 35, when McMillan was 12. The next year, her father succumbed to heart and liver disease. She and her sister, Nancy, now a deputy finance officer with Scotland County, went to live a sister of their father in Hoffman. Their brother, Sam, was taken in by a maternal uncle in Wagram. McMillan graduated from high school in Hamlet in 1970.
She almost met her husband, John McMillan, in high school, when another couple planning to marry after graduation asked her to go out with them on a blind date.
“I had to decline since it was a school night for me,” she recalled. “After the couple married, several friends and I went to visit the newlyweds and we were introduced. He called me about a week later and asked me out for our first date the Friday after Thanksgiving. I figured I would never see him again after that; however, he called me for a second date the next night .
“We were married six months later, ten days before he was sent to Vietnam” with the Army’s 5th Special Forces Group.
“I went off to Georgia to college, but did not stay but a few months when he `called’ me via short wave radio to say he wanted me back in North Carolina.” she said. “That very day, his two brothers came and packed me up and brought me to Laurinburg. I was able to go to work right after I moved here with Fieldcrest Mills in Laurel Hill.”
She later got a job with Scotland County Social Services, and after his discharge from the Army, John was hired by Abbott Laboratories.
In 1981, Abbott transferred John McMillan out of North Carolina – to Puerto Rico.
“I loved it when I was there, but I wouldn’t want to do it again,’’ she recalls of her time on the U.S. island. “We moved down the first of the summer and lived across the street from a family from Colombia, in South America. They had kids, too, and by the time school started in the fall, my three kids were speaking English and Spanish.’’
The McMillan family returned to Scotland County in August 1984, and Lynda soon landed a part-time job with the county health department as a receptionist, and she was made full time five months later. After two more years, she became the director’s secretary, and the job’s scope began to expand as the department’s service mission grew exponentially.
“When I started here, new employee orientation lasted one hour,’’ McMillan said. “Now it takes four hours.’’
She also became the department’s de facto human resources person, conducting employee job appraisals and conducting job description updates. She’s also had to handle cases of employee discipline, conducting consultations and writing up corrective action plans, up to and including dismissal.
“That was never easy or enjoyable, and it’s not the kind of job that makes people like you,’’ she said. “But the hardest thing over the years is to have seen all this downsizing – the loss of funds, programs and people.
“Some nights I couldn’t sleep for thinking about the next day and what it would bring,’’ she said. “Over the years, I’ve learned to leave it all on the desk at 5 p.m.’’
After a trip to the mountains, she plans to stay busy, still serving her fellow Scotland County citizens. She’ll be very visible when Relay for Life kicks off its annual fundraising event Sept. 26-27.
And she and John, who have been married 43 years, have three offspring and seven grandchildren to keep
+them busy. They also plan to move from Deercroft, where they’ve lived for 20 years, to the ancestral farm home of her husband’s grandfather, Albert McMillan Jr., a former county commissioner.
That done, she wants to get in the RV and see more of the United States.
“John wants to drive out West,’’ she said, smiling at the thought. “I want to go to New England. I know we’ll work something out. Because that’s one thing I’ve learned for sure over the years. I can work with anybody.’’
J.L. Pate can be reached at 910-506-3171.