I grew up in Saint Paul Kansas and spent a lot of time in Walnut where my grandparents lived. I had a typical rural Kansas upbringing. I have two sisters, Christy and Kaleigh and two brothers, Ryan and Riley. My maiden name is O’Brien (not related to the Hepler O’Briens). My parents are Kelly and Janice O’Brien. Jeff Winter is my husband; if you spend any amount of time at Producer’s Coop or NAPA or Girard Auto Parts you have probably seen him. I have three children Lilly, Grace and Thomas, attending Girard schools.
I believe the most important lessons in life are learned from experience, hard work and relationships. As far as a formal education, I received my Bachelor’s degree from Pittsburg State University and my Master’s degree from the Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs at Wichita State University.
My father made certain to impart upon his children a good work ethic. He believes that every person should have to experience at least one day’s hard labor in their lifetime. I have had many of those days. I have worked cattle, cut brush and sacked feed. When I turned sixteen I went to work at a concrete plant, running a loader and making concrete feed bunks. I also used an arc welder to construct cattle panels. After high school I worked in the kitchen at my aunt Melinda O’Brien’s, ‘chicken store’ and as flagger on a construction company’s slurry crew.
My first office job was at Wichita State University working for the Kansas Public Finance Center. My job included editing of Dr. Barley Hildreth’s materials intended for publishing and a fair amount of tax analysis. After graduation, I went to work for the Girard Area Chamber of Commerce. During this time, I did some contract work for an organization called Catholic Charities in Wichita. Eventually, Catholic Charities tempted me to accept a full-time position by offering comprehensive benefits, particularly health insurance.
Best advice I ever received:
Some of the best advice I received came from the former president of the Wichita Independent Business Association, Mr. Tim Witsman, Ph.D. He said he would never tolerate an employee that strictly adhered to all the rules. In human interactions there must be a level of discretion because we cannot legislate every contingency.
I am mindful of the fact that government exists to be a reflection of the will of the people. Girard may be a small rural community but the concept applies. I serve at the pleasure of the Council and the Mayor, who are elected by the citizens of Girard. The ultimate power lies with the people whether it be in Washington D.C., in Topeka or in small town Girard, Kansas. I would also like to point out that while the government is an extension of the people it has a simultaneous purpose to prevent the tyranny of the majority. Two of the hardest lessons to learn in life is that doing what is right isn’t always easy and you can’t always please everyone (and that’s okay!).
My management style involves holding people accountable, being fair and forthright, being as transparent as possible without infringing on the privacy rights of individuals, and always being open to constructive criticism.