Friends say goodbye as county worker Shirley Iwata retires

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Employee Shirley Iwata is retiring after 20 years of service for the county. She was honored with a luncheon and presented a plaque by Mineral County Commissioners Laurie Johnston (left), Roman Zylawy (center) and Duane Simons (right). (Kathleen Woodford/Mineral Independent)

Shirley Iwata has been a familiar face around the Mineral County Courthouse for many years. Over that time, she’s held several positions and now she has added a new one to her list, that of being “retired”. Shirley is now 70 and officially retired on Jan. 31. She wanted to retire while she was in good health and could enjoy more of life’s adventures.

Several years ago she went to massage therapy school. Now, she would like to continue studying along those lines and has already learned a form of energy balance and healing called Reiki healing, “I just love to learn and will continue to take classes,” she said.

She will also have more time to spend with her two boys who live in Spokane, along with her three grandchildren and one great-grand child. However, Superior is her home and she plans on staying here, “it’s like family here.”

In addition to her jobs, Shirley also does a lot of volunteer work including the local Helpline; mental health awareness; she a member of the Superior Town Council; the Happy Homemakers in DeBorgia; on the county’s search and rescue team; was a fire fighter on the West End; and an EMT. She says there are so many volunteer opportunities in the county, “they give you the chance to try so many new things.”

“She’s a slice of heaven,” said Mary Furlong who has worked with Iwata in a number of volunteer groups. Including her work with the Crime Victim’s Advocates which was the last part-time job she held through the Mineral County Attorney’s office.

“Her roots go deep here and people are really comfortable around her,” said Furlong.

A sentiment shared by all those who have worked with Shirley. “She’s caring and trustworthy,” said Mineral County Attorney, Ellen Donohue. “In a small town like Superior, confidentiality is so important and people can trust her and know she won’t talk about her cases.”

A plaque was presented to her during a retirement luncheon held in the commissioners meeting room on Feb. 15. County Commissioners Roman Zylawy, Laurie Johnston and Duane Simons presented the plaque which read, “Mineral County would like to thank you, Shirley Iwata, for your 12 1/2 years of service in various positions.”

Zylawy said she is very genuine. “She always wants to help people and is dedicated to public service. She worked more than part-time as the victims advocate; there were evenings and weekends. She worked above and beyond and always gave 110 percent. I’ll miss her.”

Though her plaque read 12 1/2 years, it was actually closer to 20 if her years working under a government study program counts. She also worked part-time for past county attorney Shawn Donovan; as the administrative assistant for the Health Department; and with the Public Health Emergency Preparedness program.

“I like getting into the trenches and helping victims and I love working with people,” she said. Another skill she possesses is 20 years of martial arts. Through that she learned defense awareness and often shares that skill with victims of domestic violence, “it helps victims understand their feelings and what they can do for their own personal safety.”

Several people attended the luncheon and enjoyed a pot luck lunch and cake. “Thank you,” she told the group, “I love you all and I’ll still be around.”

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