DISABILITY NO BARRIER TO CANTON CITY CLERK’S SUCCESS
“I don’t really consider myself a person with a disability,” said Canton City Clerk Linda Hysell, interrupting herself briefly to write a receipt for a neighbor paying a water bill. “To me, ‘disability’ means you can’t do something. I can do anything I need to do. I just do some things a little differently than I used to.”
Four years ago, Hysell, a Canton native and mother of three, woke up in a Mississippi hospital recovering from two amputations above the knees. She had just moved to Alabama to be near her brother and was crossing the state line to look for work. The last thing she remembers was running out of gas on the highway. Hysell was struck by an 18-wheeler that never stopped. The force sucked her under the vehicle, crushing her legs.
After a month in the hospital and two weeks in physical rehabilitation, Hysell’s father Dick Abshire, now deceased, brought her home to Canton in April 1996.
“My Dad stayed with me in the hospital from day one,” Hysell said. “Then I lived with my Mom Audrey Abshire so I could save to get my house.”
Hysell stops the conversation to take a phone call about a water leak on Main Street. She contacts the police department on a scanner to identify the location.
“I left Canton for a while a couple of times,” Hysell explained, “but I wasn’t gone long. It’s so much nicer to live in a small town because people are so much friendlier here. Instead of being the lady in a wheelchair, here I’m just Linda. People judge me for what I can do because everybody knew who I was before this happened.”
Hysell’s doctor referred her to Nancy Holden, a counselor in the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Department of Rehabilitation Services. Holden provided career counseling and purchased prosthetic legs for Hysell, who now prefers to use her wheelchair.
“I met with Nancy Holden in the Enid office,” Hysell explained. “Although my jobs before had mainly been minimum wage jobs in restaurants or custodian work, she thought I could do more and paid for me to take accounting and computer classes at Northwest Technology Center in Fairview.
“I thought I was too old to be taught anything new, but those practical classes were what I needed to get a good job,” Hysell said.
Linda Hysell attended school from August 1997 to January 1999. She was working as a substitute teacher for Canton Public Schools, when she heard long-time City Clerk Ruth Rauh was going to retire.
“I’m originally from Canton. It’s a small town so word of mouth got around that I was interested in the City Clerk job,” Hysell said. “I put an ad in the paper and got my grandkids to pass flyers around town. I was elected in April 1999, so I just had my one-year anniversary.”
The responsibilities of the position include serving as a liaison between the people of Canton and the city council and mayor. In this role, Hysell is the point of contact for the council schedule and collection of materials for the agenda packet. In addition to serving as the water clerk and city dispatcher, she also attends and prepares minutes for monthly city council meetings and special meetings.
Her co-worker City of Canton Treasurer Judy Long said, “Linda
is real easy to work with. She could have just stayed
home, but she wants to accomplish something. She’s a hard
worker. She does a good job.”
It’s time for lunch at Canton City Hall. Hysell plans to eat at her desk so she’ll be there for people coming by to pay their water bills during their lunch breaks. Her daughter Lori Johnson of Canton stops by to visit a few minutes before going to work. Lori is the mother of Hysell’s two grandchildren, daughter Lynsay, age 10, and son Joe, deceased at age 7.
Hysell’s other children are Justin Hysell, of Canton, and Christie Lantz, of Clinton.
“I feel lucky,” Hysell said, “There’s always been somebody there for me – like my parents, my kids and my counselor Nancy Holden. These days, I leave handicap parking places empty because I don’t feel handicapped anymore.”
For more information about programs offered by the Department of Rehabilitation Services, call the State Office toll free statewide at (800) 845-8476 or in Oklahoma City at (405) 951-3473. The numbers are accessible by voice or telecommunications equipment for the deaf.