Meet your neighbor: Laurie A. Jones
She had to wait two weeks before she could start a job she still works at today.
Laurie A. Jones is a Level I Manager for the Social Security office and works out of North Platte.
“When I was 15, the counselor at the high school, Mr. Morris, came and pulled me out of my Spanish class,” Laurie said. “He asked me if I would be interested in working at Social Security part time after school and in the summers.”
The counselor told Laurie to go to the Social Security office to apply.
“I wasn’t old enough to drive yet so my mom drove me down,” Laurie said. “They hired me on the spot and later called me back and said, ‘wait a minute, you have to be 16.’”
Laurie was just two weeks shy of turning 16 so they waited for her to become proper hiring age.
“I worked two summers and after school,” Laurie said. “I started out as a GS-1, doing the filing, the mail and stamping envelopes.”
She said she just worked her way up through the business.
“I’ve held every position in this office,” Laurie said. ”It really is the only place I’ve worked my whole life.”
Later on she was able to assist the counselor helped her get started.
“When Mr. Morris got ready to retire, I was a claims representative then and he wanted to know if would take his application for benefits,” Laurie said. “I said I would be honored. Why he singled me out, I have no idea. I’d like to say it was luck, but really, I think it was meant to be.”
As a Level I Manager, Laurie is responsible for a large portion of Nebraska.
“I have overall responsibility for four offices — North Platte, Scottsbluff, Grand Island and Norfolk,” Laurie said.
She manages resources, staffing, overtime, budget, security, training, hiring, as well as other responsibilities.
“I love what I do,” Laurie said. “I’ve been in management for over 20 years now. When I got promoted into management I really didn’t like it at first.”
She said she had to go back to what she was doing because she enjoyed dealing with the public every day. Her boss told her that being in management gave her the opportunity to help her employees help people and that she would have a greater impact on more people that way.
“I just needed to give it a little more time,” Laurie said. “I love making sure that everybody has what they need — their training, the tools, everything they need to do a good job for the public.”
Laurie said she could have retired a year ago.
“People ask me all the time, when are you going to retire,” Laurie said. “I say, when I’m not having fun anymore.”
She was getting her oil changed recently and asked a young man who was working there a question.
“I asked him, ‘do you like your job,’” Laurie said. “He said, ‘I do, I’ve worked here for 10 months, I should. I’ve never held a job that long before.’ And I said, well if you love what you do, just stick with it.”
Laurie has two children.
“A boy and a girl,” Laurie said. “Erick Johnson lives here, and my daughter lives in Lincoln, and her name is Hayley Olguin, and they each have two children. The grandchildren are the love of my life.”
Laurie was born in California and spent the first 12 years of her life there. While there, she had an opportunity few children get.
She said she almost could have been famous.
“Universal Studios had contacted my parents about putting me in commercials.”
She said they wanted to provide her with a tutor and a limo.
“I did some testing for them and they really wanted me, but my parents backed out at the last minute,” Laurie said. “The reason was just because of the children and the needs of the family. Mom just didn’t think it was fair to the other four.”
Laurie said with a laugh that she used to tease her mom that had she become famous she could have become a millionaire and helped the family,
Her parents were originally from North Platte.
“My parents had me, my younger brother and sister later in life, and so when they retired they moved back to North Platte,” Laurie said.
She has three brothers and one sister in total and her sister also lives in North Platte.
Laurie said she likes living in North Platte.
“Anywhere I go, I see people I know, but I also see faces that I’ve never seen before,” Laurie said. “You would think with the size of North Platte you would know everybody, but you don’t always. I like meeting new people and I like seeing friendly faces.”
One place she like to spend some time is the Sandhills.
“My daughter-in-law is from the Sandhills,” Laurie said. “I’ve driven through, but to spend some time in the Sandhills, I’ve never gotten to do that. I just think it’s beautiful country.”