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By Times-Tribune staff
Madison County Treasurer Chris Slusser is recognizing an employee who has not only served taxpayers for six decades, but is the first African-American office worker in Madison County government and the first African-American woman hired in the county.
On Jan. 7, Lerleane (Payne) Chavis saw her 60-year anniversary with the county, according to a county news release. She was hired by Treasurer George Musso in 1963 and since then has served under nine county treasurers. Besides current Treasurer Chris Slusser, Chavis worked for treasurer’s George Musso, John Maeras, Mick Henkhaus, John Shimkus, Bill Aerie, Fred Bathon, Frank Miles and Kurt Prenzler.
“Lerleane is so dedicated and hard-working,” Slusser said. “I have some really great employees, and no offense to them, but they would all agree that even at age 80, Lerleane is the most productive member of our team.”
Chavis retired from full-time employment in 1998 as a deputy treasurer and for the past 25 years has worked part-time. The 1960 Madison High School graduate started working at the Treasurer’s Office at 20- years-old.
Slusser said that a week prior, his office had her come in for a staff meeting in order to recognize her. “We had to trick her to come in, otherwise she would never have shown up,” he said. He said Henkhaus and Shimkus also stopped in to congratulate Chavis.
Slusser said Shimkus told them that he spoke with U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinski to present a statement on Chavis’ “dedicated service” on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Budzinski recognized Chavis on Feb. 8. During the recognition, Chavis remained at the top of the County Board chambers with her family, and wiped away the tears as everyone applauded and gave her a standing ovation.
“Lerleane is the epitome of class, humility and grace,” Slusser said. “She is an unsung hero who deserves flowers and appreciation.”