PITTSBURG, Kan. — Every weekday for the last 36-plus years Joye Van Gorden has gotten up, gotten dressed and gone to work at the City of Pittsburg. From the city’s public utilities department to the public works department and filling in as the city’s deputy city clerk, Van Gorden has been instrumental in administrative support and office management at the city for the last several decades.
“I just like working with people,” Van Gorden says. “I just like to help where I can.”
But Van Gorden’s long career is coming to an end, as she prepares to retire in April of 2021, just a few short months away. She says what she will miss most is the people.
“I really enjoy the people I work with,” she said. “I’ve gone through a lot of transitions with different people in the organization and I’ve loved working with each and every one of them, and that’s what I’m going to miss the most about this.”
In celebration of her career and her dedication to the city, Van Gorden was selected as a 2021 Woman of Distinction by the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
“I was totally shocked,” she says. “You know you come to work every day and do your job and you don’t expect any special recognition, but it is really nice, and I’m just really honored that someone thought enough about me as individual and then me and my work at the city.”
Van Gorden is a southeast Kansas native and grew up just a short drive down KS-126 and KS-7 in Girard. She was the youngest of eight and graduated from Girard High School before heading straight into the workforce. She’s remained in Crawford County all her life, and worked at an attorney's office, an insurance company and even Pittsburg State University before she started at the city in 1984.
“I love the small-town feel,” she said. “I feel safe here. It’s a good place to raise a family and I just love what the community has to offer.”
But to Van Gorden, the city is more than just a job, it’s where she met her late husband and “best friend” John Van Gorden.
“We knew each other before we got married,” she says. “We were good friends like 18 years before that.”
Van Gorden’s husband worked at the city for 45 years. She said he served Pittsburg in a variety of roles including as the director of public works, the director of parks and rec and the interim city manager — at one point he was holding all three position at once — and is her inspiration.
“He taught me a lot,” she said, “and I just hope I have been a good employee that he would be proud of.”
John Van Gorden passed away in May of 2018 and Van Gorden says the last few years have been an adjustment as she gets used to not having him around.
“He was my best friend as well as my husband and we did everything together,” she said. “It’s been tough. I miss him every day, but you know life goes on and we all have to continue life the best we can.”
And that is just what she is doing. After she retires in April, Van Gorden plans to spend time with her five kids, eight grandkids and two great grandkids and hopefully travel, when its permitted.
“I want to find anything and everything I can do to enjoy life,” she said.