In 1977, recent high school graduate and newlywed Rita Fyffe started working for Gregg County as a data entry clerk.

After 43 years and six months, now Gregg County Human Resources Director Fyffe is retiring from the county and taking her knowledge to the Texas Association of Counties as an HR consultant.

“God has just opened every door for me,” Fyffe said. “It’s very exciting; it’s a new adventure.”

County Judge Bill Stoudt recognized Fyffe at the Commissioners Court meeting Monday morning with a plaque recognizing her service to Gregg County.

“It’s impossible to replace somebody with her knowledge,” Stoudt said. “Forty-three years in the courthouse and her service, counting for that length of time, has been priceless.”

Fyffe’s first job with the county was with adult probation, now called Community Supervision and Corrections, as a data entry clerk before being promoted to administrative assistant. She worked in probation for 13 years and moved to Human Resources in the early 1990s.

“I worked under a gentleman by the name of William Dexter, who was a fantastic mentor,” Fyffe said. “I decided that I would go back to school and get my degree, and he was very supportive. He said, ‘That’s what I’m talking about!’”

Fyffe attended LeTourneau University for four years, working during the day and going to school at night, and she earned her business administration degree in 2000.

When Dexter retired that year, Fyffe applied for his position and was appointed by the Commissioners Court as HR Director.

“And I’ve been HR Director ever since, and it has been a blessing,” Fyffe said. “God has put such wonderful people in my path to mold me and to mentor me and to build me and guide me and to make me the person that I am today.”

Working in human resources is not always an easy task, Stoudt said.

“You know, there are days that as an HR person, I want everybody to get along — and there are difficult days,” Fyffe says. “But those difficult days are the days that make you stronger. Those are the days that you really work hard.”

Everything she has learned in the county seems to have been in preparation for this next phase of her career, she said. She starts her new job on June 1, and it will mean relocating to the Dallas/Fort Worth area and traveling as she covers counties in Northwest Texas.

“I’m ready to hit the ground running,” Fyffe said. “Everything has fallen into place.”

As an HR consultant, Fyffe will help counties navigate difficult topics like employee discipline, termination, employee leave, discrimination and harassment. She will also offer training and policy review related to risk control and risk management.

Fyffe said making sure she had the blessings of Stoudt and the commissioners was important to her.

“I guess when you’ve worked for a county as long as I have, you want them to be proud of your work,” she said. “You want them to be proud of what you’ve done.”

Fyffe received several hugs and well wishes following the commissioners’ meeting. A reception honoring her is scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. on Wednesday before her last day Friday.

In moving to the metroplex, she will be closer to her parents and her children.

“I have two children, and I have three grandchildren,” Fyffe said. “I keep pinching myself, like, is this real,” she said. “Gregg county has been a wonderful place to work. It’s my home.”

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Courtney Stern is a public safety reporter covering a wide range of topics. She grew up in Baltimore and later earned a journalism degree from the University of Miami. Stern moved to East Texas from Iowa with her husband and two dogs, Pebbles and Bam Bam.