Corrections worker retires


Wanda Daniels was showered with gifts and praises at her retirement party.

AIDA MALLARD/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 7:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 7:12 p.m.

Wanda Daniels will officially retire Jan. 19 after 30 years of service in the Alachua County Department of Court Services, but family members, co-workers, friends and admirers showered her with praise and affection last Wednesday during her retirement party.

They called her "irreplaceable," "firm, but fair," "our social butterfly," "a giving spirit," "inspiring," "professional," and so much more.

The party and potluck luncheon was held at the Alachua Country Work Release Center.

Daniels, 58, who retired after serving for about 15 years as a corrections counselor at the work release center, began her 30-year career with Alachua County as a corrections officer at the county jail.

Daniels said she was honored to see so many friends and co-workers at her retirement party. And although she has found her work to be very rewarding, Daniels said she is ready to enjoy her retirement, which will include traveling with her mother, Lorenza McKinnon.

"I want to travel and do volunteer work," Daniels said. "I'd like to go overseas."

Born and raised in Alachua County, Daniels is one of four children of McKinnon and the late Ellis McKinnon. She has an adult son, Deigratia Daniels, who is a systems engineer for Lockheed Martin Engineering Corp. in Atlanta.

Jim Santagelo, director of Alachua County Court Services, said Daniels will be missed.

"Wanda is all heart, fair and firm and holds people accountable," Santagelo said. "It will be strange and different not having her around."

Joe Lipsey, the county work release manager, said Daniels has made outstanding contributions during her 30-year tenure with Alachua County. He said she was the driving force in establishing a GED program at the work release center. Lipsey said she developed community relationships that enabled her to place unemployed work release residents in jobs.

She also worked with the residents to ensure they maintained their employment.

During her tenure as a corrections officer, Lipsey said Daniels was instrumental in starting a life skills class, worked on the jail transition team, and at the courthouse. Daniels also served as a training officer and instructor at the Corrections Academy.

Virginia Henricks, Alachua County Work Release supervisor and Daniels' immediate supervisor, said Daniels has a beautiful mind, a beautiful heart and is a great motivator.

"She motivates and challeges them (residents) to excel beyond what they think they can do," said Hendricks, adding that former residents come to see Daniels during the holidays to say how they're doing and to thank her for helping them.

Gary Brewester, retired and former manager of the Alachua County Work Release Center, said Daniels will go to any length to help people. "She's also all about people taking responsibility for their actions," Brewester said. "She has balance."

Co-worker Lillie Perkins said Daniels works to ensure the needs of others are met.

"Wanda is the mother many of us never had," Perkins said. "She has endless love for all she comes in contact with."

Gas giveaway

The Chestnut Law Firm gave an early Christmas present to some Gainesville drivers.

Members of the firm pumped 1,159 gallons of free gas as part of its 2nd annual We Care Campaign Gas Giveaway. It took place Dec. 23 at the Stop & Go Texaco Station at 1602 NE Waldo Road.

Staff from the Chestnut Law Firm and community leaders pumped gas for drivers and wished them happy holidays.

"The We Care Campaign Gas Giveaway is a way for us to show our gratitude to the community and let them know we care about them," said attorney Chris Chestnut, CEO of the Chestnut Law Firm. "Many people are struggling right now and we wanted to ease some of that burden by letting them know they aren't forgotten during the holiday season."

The Chestnut Law Firm is a civil litigation firm committed to seeking justice for everyday people who are the victims of catastrophic injury and wrongful death. There are offices in Jacksonville, Gainesville, Miami and Tampa.

For more information, visit www.chestnutfirm.com.

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