Jeannette McPherson: Success in a second career'

By Staff
PROFESSIONAL WOMAN Jeannette McPherson is the only woman ever to hold the position of superintendent at the Wastewater Treatment Plant in Meridian. She will retire in June. Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star
By Penny Randall / staff writer
March 17, 2002
Jeannette McPherson married at a young age and didn't finish high school. She became a full-time mother of five children, of whom she is very proud.
McPherson had always wanted to go back to school, but never quite had the time.
At the age of 39, she noticed an advertisement in the newspaper for Meridian Community College's GED Program.
After talking with a counselor, she took the test and earned her general education diploma.
From there, she earned a degree in biology with a minor in environmental science from Livingston University, now the University of West Alabama. Not bad for someone who didn't graduate from high school.
Her new career begins
On a visit to the employment office in 1981, McPherson got a tip about a job at a new Wastewater Treatment Plant being built in Meridian. McPherson was hired as a lab technician at the new plant, performing daily tests on the water to ensure it was safe to be released back into Sowashee Creek.
Over the years, she learned more about the business and furthered her education with seminars and classes, earning the highest rating a Class 4 for a wastewater treatment operator.
Twelve years later, she became the first female superintendent, overseeing 20 employees and the daily operations of the entire plant.
Proud of others
These days, the plant's two lab technicians are also women, Christie Ethridge and Yolanda Brown. Both have chemical engineering degrees.
Her husband said, "Well, why didn't you?" McPherson replied, "Because we would have had to move away."
With a smile on her face, McPherson remembers him saying, "Well, I would of moved."
McPherson's advice for other women: "Always look for a way to better yourself. For Christie and Yolanda, at their ages, I would tell them don't hold back."
Looking back
McPherson started her career after she was a grown woman. Looking back, she says it was a good decision because it gave her time to be a mother.
McPherson and her husband of 38 years, James, have five children: James and Michael live in Mobile, Ala.; Tammy lives in Vicksburg; David is a resident of Enterprise; and Christopher lives in the Pine Springs community. They have 11 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and another on the way.
In June, McPherson will retire. She is looking forward to working in her yard, doing a lot of crafts and fishing as much as possible.
Did she leave her mark on the plant?
She said, "Yeah, I've painted everything. We have a purple break room and my office is peach."

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