On the Job with Annette T. Bowling

Photo by Barry Levine

Photo by Barry Levine

"On the Job With..." is a regular feature of Sunday Inc. Today's feature is on Annette T. Bowling, executive director of Albany Advocacy Resource Center.

Q. If you were a young adult fresh out of college, what would you do first in searching for a job?

A. Do as much volunteer work as you can. Take a part-time job to get some experience. Learn as much as you can about the business and the community.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?

A. A pair of high-heeled shoes.

Q. What's the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. You must never ask them to do more than you are willing to do yourself. And always be there to answer questions and give them the guidance to make the right decisions.

Q. What was your first job?

A. As a junior in high school I went to work part-time at the Standard Oil Wholesale Plant in Homerville, Ga., and then went to work with Standard Oil Company in Jacksonville, Fla.

Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?

A. I feel I was led to Albany ARC by God. When I moved to Albany, I was married, 37 years old, and had worked for several corporations. I had never worked with people with disabilities and had never worked in non-profit. My work background was in bookkeeping and accounting. When I first came to Albany ARC there were no services for people with disabilities and it gave me the opportunity to build Albany ARC to what is is today.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. Without hesitation I can tell you that it was and is my mother and daddy. They taught me that no matter what career path I may take that I need to give back to my community and I need to help people. They did it before me and I watched them and they put me on the track that would lead me to Albany ARC.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. You have to be prepared. I have been here since 1974 and this is not the first recession that I have had to deal with in the business world. My philosophy is that during an economic downturn you have to tighten the belt without ever cutting services. I will ask my staff as well as myself to do a little more with a little less, but not the consumers of the programs and resources of Albany ARC. We have had down times but the Albany community always seems to come through and help us to keep the programs and services for our consumers in place.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology - examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. - what would you most like to see go away?

A. That's easy. The automated phone system. As long as I am the executive director of Albany ARC, when you call you will always get a live voice. Not only that, you will get a live voice from a person with disabilities.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. My cell phone. Even though I am the executive director with nearly 40 years in the business, I am still on call 24/7 to my consumers. They all have my cell number.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. I am currently reading Rosalynn Carter's new book on mental health, "Within Our Reach." This book is about people with mental illness. On a daily basis, I read my Bible. I try to read a little bit every day. I also have a daily devotional book I read from and I surround myself with quotes and famous sayings that help me to stay focused on my beliefs and give me strength.

Q. I'm up and going by? And what is your morning routine?

A. I'm up around 6:30 a.m. and I enjoy my morning coffee while I prepare for the challenges of the day. I'm in the office around 9 to 9:30 a.m. I don't come in as early as I used to. I've been the executive director since 1974 and I used to be the first one in the office and the last one to leave. Today, I may not be the first to arrive, but I am still the last to leave the office.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?

A. George and I have been married almost 40 years and we really enjoy our time together at the lake house we purchased. But last year I became the great-grandmother to Allie Grace and now that is where I spend a great deal of my time.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. Nothing. I wouldn't take back anything. I can honestly tell you that I don't regret any business decision I have ever made.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. Very few people, through their job, have the opportunity to see a miracle happen. Some days you see people with disabilities deal with struggles in their lives, but every day I see a miracle. I see people who you thought would never get a job become gainfully employed. I see a couple with disabilities get married and purchase a home of their own. I see children speak their first word, or take their first step. My life is so full of blessings.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. There is nothing bad about my job. I look at my job as a real ministry. I look forward every day to getting up, coming to work because that day I know I will see people with disabilities in my office. They come to visit me every day and they make my day, every day.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?

A. Bookkeeping and accounting. When I came to work at Albany ARC, I did not have the social work component to run the actual programs. I did have the financial background to run the assets. I feel that my heart was in the right place to be able to put the right programs in place, but my accounting background kept the program together. Even though you might have the heart to work in non-profits, you must be able to manage the assets. If not, you won't survive.

Q. Finish this thought; "on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself...

A. Now, if and when I decide to retire, I see myself along with my husband, my son, my granddaughter and great-granddaughter spending a lot of time at the lake.

Q. Crystal ball time: What's your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?

A. I saw this coming three years ago and we began our cost effective plan for dealing with the downturn; how to do more with less. I feel that it will probably be 2013 before we get out of this recession.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. The music that I enjoy listening to on my radio is blues and country music.

Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?

A. The return of businesses, shopping and traffic in the downtown area. I'm excited about the opportunities. I remember when I moved to Albany, downtown was the place to go for shopping, eating and recreational activities. I think that 10 years from now you will see Albany's downtown area back the way it used to be. I believe we are going to see a lot of young people moving their residences to the downtown area.

Q. What was the best vacation you've ever taken? Why?

A. When my husband and I had a 10-day Alaskan cruise with his siblings. We all had such a great time.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?

A. I am seeing that non-profits are playing a much bigger role in the community than in the past. Traditionally, people with disabilities were housed in institutions, but now fewer and fewer are being housed there. We are seeing more people with disabilities housed in their own community. With the changes, institutions will not be a place we serve people with disabilities. In the next few years you will see fewer state institutions and more community services for people with disabilities, mental health and addictive disease.