A retired police officer stopped by Town Hall the week before Christmas with a gift basket for Bettye Newby. He was considering a move to Farragut in 2016 when he first met Bettye, the Town Hall receptionist, who enthusiastically shared the merits of the town. A few months later, he returned so his wife could meet Bettye. The couple decided to make Farragut their new home.
It’s no surprise that they remember Bettye during the holidays. She’s tall, elegant and fashionable from head to toe, but it’s her smile that really makes an impression. And her warm Southern drawl calms visitors and callers alike.
Did I mention that Bettye is 82?
She’s worked full-time for the Town of Farragut for the past 18 years. She works for the joy of it rather than the paycheck.
“Why would I not want to work? I really enjoy it. If I didn’t, I’d go home.”
Bettye and her husband, Billy, a minister, raised three sons in Martin, Tennessee. The youngest was in kindergarten when a part-time secretarial position opened up at the church where Billy preached. They needed the extra income, she says, and she could manage the schedule with the help of a neighbor who agreed to watch her son for 30 minutes each day. She got the job after her husband met with church leadership, and the men agreed that it would be acceptable for her to take the position as long as it didn’t interfere with her church service.
Being a secretary didn’t keep her from providing casseroles for potlucks, she says with a laugh.
She had to become more independent when Billy passed away. Before that, she’d only put gas in her car once, she says. She retired from her job at the University of Tennessee-Martin after 30 years of service and moved to Farragut, where her oldest son lived. Later, a second son followed suit. Six of Bettye’s grandchildren attended Farragut schools, and all six attended college on athletic scholarships.
She’s had to assure her children that she enjoys the full-time schedule. She’s not a “relaxer,” she says, but she does enjoy travel. This year, she went on a whirlwind tour of New England with a friend from church. Next summer, they plan to travel to Austria and Switzerland.
Bettye plans to “flag-wave for Farragut” at Town Hall as long as it suits her. When she encounters visitors who are considering a move to Farragut, she brags on the town’s parks and natural beauty as well as its staff and elected officials. Town Administrator David Smoak, Mayor Ron Williams and all four aldermen really care about the town, she says.
“It’s just a great place to live.”
If you ask her for the key to a long, active life, Bettye doesn’t have an answer, although she does eat right and exercise. But she knows the reason for her perpetual smile. In addition to the happiness that comes from faith and family, Bettye was raised to be joyful in all circumstances.
“My mother always taught me that life is what you make it.”
Wendy Smith coordinates marketing and public relations for the town of Farragut.