Keen set to retire after 34 years of serving Ocean View
After 34 years of service to the Town of Ocean View, Tax Receiver Betty Jane “B.J.” Keen is retiring from her position.
“What do you say? This is the first time I’ve done this, so I don’t know much about it!” said Keen with a laugh. “They need some new blood, I think, in here. And I’m kind of ready to let that happen, I think.”
Keen started working for the town in February of 1978 and was initially a part-time employee who helped with taxes and took minutes at meetings.
“She started out back in the old days, as part-time,” said acting Town Manager Lee Brubaker. “Basically, she was the only administrative person in the town. I believe she and another woman basically split the job. Each of them worked a couple of days a week. She worked a couple of days a week and she did everything imaginable. She did the town clerk duties, coordinated all the elections: registration, the voters.”
“I started in February of ’78,” recalled Keen, “and was part-time, and I did the taxes and I took minutes for Planning & Zoning. And it just kind of snowballed from there into something far more.”
Taking care of the town’s taxes may not sound all that exciting, but Keen’s work got very exciting one evening in June of 2008, when high winds did major damage to Ocean View Town Hall. A fallen tree from John West Park narrowly missed Keen as she sat in her office at the rear of the building.
“It happened really fast,” said an uninjured Keen that night. “I was in my office, and I looked outside and the wind was really whipping around. The next thing I knew, stuff was falling in around me. There was real loud sound,” she said, “and I looked up and there was a tree above me. I was trying to cover my head, and the ceiling fixture was swinging.”
Keen said she’s seen the town grow and change over the years, and that it’s been a really interesting experience.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes. I’ve worked with a lot of wonderful people, that’s for sure. And I’ve been blessed through that time I’ve been here. It’s all been good. “
Keen, whose father was a Bethany Beach native, was born in New York, but moved to Ocean View with her family when she was 6 months old. She lived in the town until she married and moved to Quillen’s Point.
“I haven’t gone very far… I kind of like it here, I guess,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t know any different. But I love the area. I really do.”
Keen said it was “really neat” to work for the town where she grew up and noted that serving the town runs in her family, as her aunt, Mildred Evans, was the only female mayor in the town’s history.
“It’s hard to believe it’s all gone by so fast. It’s just hard to believe. It’s been a nice journey. It really has,” she said. “I’ve been blessed by this job and by the people I’ve met in this venture. I’ve had to do a lot of changing from what I first did to what I do now, but you know life is like that. Life doesn’t really stay the same.
“You learn a lot as you go along the way and so, hopefully, I’m wise enough to know I can do that. And some changes I don’t like as well as others, but some I don’t have any choice in. So that’s what you just do. You just go along and do the best you can and accept what you can’t change. That’s what I’m going to do. “
In recognition and celebration of Keen’s service to the town, a retirement open house will be held at town hall on Tuesday, Jan.10, from 4 to 6 p.m.
“Well, it’s kind of unusual in this day and age for somebody to have been with an employer for 33 years, and we just thought that was noteworthy and just wanted to recognize that and recognize B.J.’s contributions over the years,” said Brubaker. “We just thought that people that had worked with her over the years or had had met her or dealt with her in town hall, if they wanted to, could just stop by and say thank you and say goodbye.”
Brubaker noted that the event will be “low-key” and will include light refreshments for those who stop by to wish Keen farewell.
“I haven’t met anybody who doesn’t like B.J. She’s just a very pleasant, easygoing, accommodating person. The knowledge that she has, being a local who grew up in the area, knows everybody, and knows the history of town — what she carries around in her head is going to be hard to replace,” Brubaker added with a laugh. “I’m personally going to miss her, but I wish her well.”
Of her retirement, Keen said she is looking forward to spending quality time with her friends and family.
“I guess just the fact that I can be available for my grandchildren a little more often and to be with my friends and family. I think that will be good, just to be adventurous and be free to do other things,” she said, adding she’ll be celebrating her retirement by spending the month of March vacationing in Florida.
“You’re confined when you have a job, which is nice, and it’s been a blessing, I will never begrudge that part of it. I don’t know how it will feel to be on vacation a lot more, so that’s what I’m going to look forward to. I’m trying to look forward to maybe a little bit of travel and being with friends and family, so that’s a good thing.”
Keen said that working for the Town has been an ongoing blessing, and she hopes to continue to be actively involved in the community.
“It’s been a blessing and it’s going to be hard saying goodbye, but I’m not really going to say goodbye. I’ll be around, and I’ll help out wherever I can. In other fields out there, if I can help visit people who are unable to get out or… I want to make a difference still. I don’t want to just quit and give up. I want to do something else that will count. So, stay tuned — we’ll see!”