Joy Naifeh retires after 51 years of service

At the regularly scheduled meeting, the Board of County Commissioners honored Election Board Secretary Joy Naifeh for more than half a century of being a devoted civil servant. 

Joy Naifeh stands with County Commissioners Newt Stephens, Leon Warner and Jarrod Whitehouse as they thank her for her service for over 50 years of services as a civil servant. Charles Betzler photo.

Everyone in the meeting room gave Ms. Naifeh a standing ovation. Once Ms. Naifeh made it to the front of the room, Commissioners Newt Stephens, Leon Warner, and Jarrod Whitehouse presented Ms. Naifeh with an official County proclamation and a plaque recognizing her 51 faithful years of service.

Joy gave a heartwarming speech following the presentation.

“Thank you all very much, I have enjoyed my work with Creek County. What I have enjoyed most are the people who I have worked with. We have the greatest group of people who are Creek County employees. We have the greatest group of officers, everyone works together.

“I have called on each of you, especially the Sheriff standing back there, Newt, Leon, and Jared, they have all played a significant part. Jennifer (Mortazavi) has really played a part, along with her helper, Tandra.

“During the Pandemic, this girl right here, Tandra, Jana, and Jennifer, would not let Chris come over to this building, they were afraid she would get COVID. They would walk over to our office a couple of blocks, and stand outside, so they would not bring anything into our office, so we could take care of things without coming here and taking a chance. Those things are never forgotten.

“Above all, I had my sidekick with me for 28 years, Chris (Gilliland), and she is sitting right over there. She kept the place running, I don’t know what I would have done without her, we made a good team.

“There was never a crossword, there was never anything, just a lot of respect, I will appreciate her forever.

“I didn’t even know Newt, he had just been elected, and our office had to be open, but most of you all got to close your offices because of bad weather. He came to my house, picked me up, introduced himself, and brought me to the office, then came back and took me home.

“They (BOCC) have asked their men and women, all their workers, to go to the different precincts when there was bad weather, to pick up everything that needed to be brought back to us.

“What I am saying is that we have a team. We had a team when I was here, and we will have a team next Monday with the new person.”

This is the most giving, encouraging group of people I have had the blessing of working with.

Joy concluded by saying, “This ain’t goodbye, I will see you all, and I want to thank you for everything you have done to make my days happy days.”

Joy began her public service career on January 1, 1972, when she went to work for the Creek County Election Board, where she stayed until December 31, 1976. She subsequently worked as a court reporter in the Creek County Courthouse from January 1, 1977, until January 31, 1987. She went to work for the Creek County Election Board again, leaving in 1989 when she served as the Assistant State Election Board Secretary. She was appointed Election Board Secretary in 1995 and will serve in that capacity until April 30, 2023.

The Sapulpa Herald interviewed Joy Naifeh at her Election Board Office.

When asked what major milestones occurred during her tenure as Secretary of the Election Board, Ms, Naifeh replied: “We have gone from having metal ballot boxes and paper ballots. After you counted them, you had red and blue pencils to separate the counts.

They would have to thread their big needles with string and sew all those ballots together. Then they tied them, and they would have to have a match to soften the wax, so you could pour wax over the string where it was tied, then put the seal of the State of Oklahoma in that wax.

That meant that you knew those were counted, and they were not broken into.”

Ms. Naifeh hen pointed to a circuit board that was part of a framed collage of Election Board items from the past, “that was our first automated voting device, That was when we introduced our first Statewide voting system.”

Joy said of her retirement: “I have worked all my life, and I hope I settle into my retirement, but I will be busy. I have plans to volunteer for several things, and of course, I work at the church, so I will fill my time.

I have a wonderful family, my grandsons are close by, I have three great-grandsons, and they are fun and I enjoy being with them.”

 She finished the interview by stating: “I have always enjoyed my life, so I will enjoy my life of retirement.