NCDA&CS Employee of the Year shines while tackling challenges of work & life

by | Feb 28, 2022

At a meeting earlier this year, Commissioner Steve Troxler recognized the 2021 NCDA&CS Employee of the Year SueAnn Locklear Safriet. She is a forest management secretary for the N.C. Forest Service in District 10 – a ten-county district based in Lexington. Safriet was previously selected as the June 2021 Employee of the Month, and early this year a committee selected her from the eleven other 2021 monthly honorees to name her the Employee of the Year.

“To say that I’m honored is an understatement, and to say I am humbled is a given,” Safriet said. “I’m beaming from the inside out, and I will be for years.”

SueAnn Locklear Safriet (right) with Commissioner Troxler after being recognized with the 2021 Employee of the Year award.

Safriet with her husband Keith, daughter Lindsay, son Chris and daughter-in-law Audrey.

District Forester Mark Bost nominated Safriet for the employee recognition. To put it plainly, he wanted to honor her for the incredibly large workload she handles and the pleasant and uplifting demeanor she maintains despite the stress of a busy district.

“When I get to work, she’s already here, and she’s buried in work and getting to it. She really takes it to the extreme with her extra effort. I just can’t be appreciative enough for all she does,” Bost said. “Even though I’m the one who wrote the nomination, there was a consensus across the ten counties in our district that she deserved this recognition. It’s common knowledge that she’s a great employee.”

Safriet grew up in Robeson County, and her family moved to Guilford County when she was a teenager. She previously worked in education and has worked in the District 10 office for nearly five years. Her job involves the administrative work associated with all the district’s forest management plans that are prepared for private landowners. That involves printing, copying, mailing plans with enclosures to landowners, invoicing for those plans and receiving payments. Collecting payments involved with those plans also includes late payments. That sometimes means making phone calls that are basically bill collection calls to property owners, but even those conversations are something Safreit handles with a warm demeanor.

In recent years, the revenue Safriet handles through forest management plans has almost doubled. As if that weren’t enough, her job duties expand into billing and collection of receipts for controlled burns, oversight of cost-share programs and coordinating with lots of different people to keep track of payments, receipts and other red tape. Bost said Safriet follows everything down to the penny. She’s well known for her ability to create and track complicated Excel spreadsheets.

“The busyness has allowed me to grow as a person in my career and my convictions,” Safriet said. “I look forward to the challenges and being able to help people. I’m able to not only help my coworkers but the public as well. We do have a lot of people who come in from the public, and I’m able to help them. I do enjoy that part.”

Part of Safriet’s gracious personality and positive outlook comes from her battle with breast cancer. She met the disease with a warrior heart and continues to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. As a survivor of cancer, she says she’s still taking step to reclaim what cancer stole from her.

“It definitely made me realize that I have to make today better than yesterday because you don’t know what tomorrow holds,” Safriet said. “Although it was a tough battle, I knew God had a plan for me. I said if I’m going to go through this, I want God to use me, and that’s what I’ve been able to do. I’ve been able to mentor other women who have been going through this.”

Safriet’s eagerness to help people has certainly made its way into her job with the Forest Service. Through all the hard work, Bost said Safriet maintains her upbeat personality, and she’s always willing to lend a hand.

“If she sees someone struggling she steps in to say, ‘let me help with that.’ She never says ‘that’s not my job,’” Bost said.

Safriet looks at her job as a blessing that came from stepping out of her comfort zone. After several years in public education, she walked away and joined the Forest Service. She said she’s now realized that loving to come to work is a real thing and that you can realize that dream if you’re willing to take chances.

“I took a chance, but I’m so glad I did,” Safriet said. “[This award is] affirmation to me that I’m on the right path in serving my community and working with these great coworkers that I have.

“I consider myself a survivor, not just of breast cancer but of this everyday life that we all go through. I look forward to being able to come to work and enjoy the people every day. When you have another day to live and another day to make a difference in someone else’s life, you just learn to not take life for granted.”