By Maggie Callaghan, For The Miami Student
Gail Paveza sits at Kofenya, donning a bright pink shirt and matching lipstick. She’ll offer to buy you a drink, but after all of the hard work she has put in to the Oxford community, maybe it should be he other way around.
Everyone who knows Paveza knows that is exactly who she is.
“It’s important in a community to have people engaged,” said Douglas Elliott, City Manager. “Gail represents the best of the community.”
After dedicating 17 years to Follett’s Co-Op in Uptown Oxford, Paveza decided to retire. In October, city council members began discussing ways to recognize her community service and involvement.
Then, on Nov. 17 at a city council meeting, Mayor Kevin McKeehan proclaimed that Nov. 18 would be recognized as “Gail Paveza day.”
According to his statement, Paveza is a former member and president of Kiwanis Club, an international service organization founded in 1915 with chapters across the country. While Paveza was president, Kiwanis Club welcomed 16 new members and chartered a new youth organization in Oxford, which was significant for the community, said Michael Rudolph, who has known Paveza for 13 years. Rudolph has worked with her in Kiwanis and on the board for the Chamber of Commerce, which Paveza served on in 2007.
According to Rudolph, Paveza plays an important role in every job she has.
“Gail is a driver,” he said. “If you give her a task, you can always count on her to get it done.”
Paveza, originally from Chicago, moved to Oxford in 1998 from Fort Wayne, Indiana after Follett’s Co-Op offered her a job. Follett’s Co-Op, located on East High Street, provides educational services and books to universities nationwide. Paveza has been working for Follett’s since she graduated college.
Paveza said she would travel up to four times a week while working for Follett’s in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and moving to Oxford gave her the opportunity to create a more stable lifestyle for herself and her dog. This allowed her to have more time to get involved in the community.
“I like meeting and interacting with different types of people, from administrators to townspeople,” Paveza said. “I never got to do that, I traveled too much.”
Paveza first became involved in Oxford community organizations when she took part in “Leadership Oxford,” a leadership development program sponsored by the city.
Through that leadership program, she was able to meet members of the Kiwanis Club, which she joined in 2004. The Kiwanis club plays an intricate part in the community as it sponsors Circle K, an international organization that helps students get involved with their community, as well as sponsoring events with the university and Talawanda High School.
“We have this huge pancake breakfast every year. Oh gosh, I made pancakes for a couple hours,” Paveza said with a chuckle.
Through her work at Follett’s she was able to meet customers on a daily basis, and this was where Oxford residents really began to notice her dedication to the community, in particular, the City Manager’s office, which is located right across the street, even though she never worked for the City Manager’s office.
“People would notice that she always kept the sidewalk around Follett’s neat and tidy … and she always did it herself,” Elliott said. “If there was snow, she would be out there shoveling. It became a discussion at staff meetings.”
Rudolph said that is just part of Paveza’s character. She never does anything without flare and without getting noticed.
“Most people like to work behind the scenes,” said Rudolph, “but [Paveza] always worked at the center of things …”
The proclamation ordered by the mayor even mentioned her superb work at keeping Follett’s sidewalk clean. Elliott emphasized that it’s rare to find community members who put in time and effort to make the city look better with the same dedication as Paveza.
It was not until the beginning of October when Paveza learned about the honor she would be recognized with. She said at first she did not understand that she was being honored by an entire day. Instead, she thought she was just being recognized by Oxford for her work. Once Paveza understood the gravity of the honor, she reacted with excitement and nerves.
“At first, I thought ‘wow, this is neat.’ Then I thought ‘Oh god, what if I have to make a speech.’ But then I realized that this will be good because everyone will know now,” Paveza said.
Sept. 19 was the last day Paveza worked at Follett’s. She said she kept it pretty low-key, and most community members didn’t even know that she had retired until the mayor released this proclamation.
After working for 48 years, Paveza is enjoying retirement. She plans to stay in Oxford and will continue her work with Kiwanis and spend time hiking with her dog and relaxing.
“It’s great! I don’t have to do anything if I don’t want to … except having to take my dog out in the morning, but she sleeps in, too,” Paveza said.