Published 3:14 am Wednesday, January 17, 2007
By By LYDIA GRIMES – Features writer
Shirley Pettis is getting ready to take a big step. In a few weeks she will retire from the Escambia County Sheriff's Department. She is planning to devote her time to grandchildren, fishing and hunting. She might even put in a little time taking life easy, but for now, she is trying to tie up the loose ends and find a time when she can walk out the door for the last time.
Pettis went to work in the sheriff's office when Tim Hawsey took office. She worked in the substation in Atmore.
She came to Brewton as the sheriff's chief clerk. She went to reserve academy in 1985 and graduated from Southeast Alabama Police Academy in 1987. She graduated as a deputy sheriff.
It is probably a little unusual for the office administrator to work in the field as much as Pettis did, but she said she enjoyed it.
Pettis worked in the office until 1992 when she resigned to stay at home to look after her mother who was ill. Thankfully her mother recovered, but it was several years before Pettis decided to come back to the sheriff's office.
In 2003 when Grover Smith was elected, Pettis was called upon to return to the sheriff's office as the administrative assistant. Since that time she has worked in the office with Sheriff Grover Smith and the other officers there.
Those who work with her said they will hate to see her leave.
Sgt. Alice Brown, who is the senior officer at the front desk said, “I have worked with her for a long time. We will be sad to see her go, but she will be able to do some of the things she wants to do. That makes me a little less sad.”
Pettis said she has seen a lot of changes over the years in the sheriff's office.
Pettis was born in Pascagoula, Miss. and raised in Jackson County, Miss. She comes from a large family of six brothers and one sister. Her dad worked for many years with International Paper and, at the same time, had a farm. The children learned at an early age to do chores around the farm and good work ethics were instilled in them.
Pettis attended and graduated from Moss Point High School in 1959. She said she was an average student but didn't participate in a lot of extra curricular activities, because she was a ‘country girl' and had chores to do after school. She did play basketball for four years.
During and after high school, she worked at Credit Union of Jackson County. She also helped at her family's grocery store.
She married Woodrow Pettis Jr. in July, 1960. They had gone to school together at Moss Point High School.
They soon moved to Tennessee where he took a job in his uncle's dental laboratory. She went to work as a bookkeeper for a television station and worked part-time with the Credit Bureau of Union City, Tenn. and Goodyear Corporation doing accounting work.
The couple later moved to Thomasville, Ga., and she worked for Dr. James Taylor and did some CPA work at home.
In 1967 the family moved to Atmore, where her husband opened the Atmore Dental Laboratory. She was busy raising her family and doing her husband's bookkeeping.
They had four children, Lana Loring (1962), John Lee Pettis (1964), Dana Pettis Freeman (1968) and Roger Pettis (1971). They now also have eight grandchildren.
It was after she came to Atmore and was attending First Baptist Church of Atmore that she came to know Tim Hawsey and went to work in law enforcement. She has continued to live in Atmore and make the trip back and forth every day.
Pettis is looking forward to retirement. She said she has had arthritis for a long time and she wants to spend some time doing the things she enjoys before she is no longer able to.