Oklahoma Bar Journal

In a League of Her Own

By John Morris Williams

In the movie A League of Their Own, the character played by Tom Hanks said, “There is no crying in baseball.” Obviously, there was, or he wouldn’t have said it. We try not to have too much crying in bar work, but there are times when a tear comes to the eye. I’m suffering through one of those times right now with the retirement of my long-suffering executive assistant, Debbie Brink.

We have many outstanding and hardworking employees at the Oklahoma Bar Association. I can promise you that every day, you got your money’s worth with Debbie Brink. Debbie truly cared about our association and our members. A good deal of her job included providing support to our presidents and Board of Governors. She was the unseen hand in many successful programs and projects. Never one to seek recognition or credit, she labored tirelessly and took immense pride in her work.

When I became executive director, I found that very little of the OBA’s policies and procedures had been captured in writing. Because of Debbie’s hard work, we now have a complete policy manual that is indexed and electronically searchable. Another of her great accomplishments is “The Book.”

Like many policies and procedures, when I came to the OBA, there was no comprehensive compilation of all the duties, appointments, schedules and timelines for the incoming presidents. While my previous assistant and I began the task of building the book, Debbie Brink took it to perfection. Every year she spent about a month assembling all the necessary information for the president-elect to have at their fingertips a complete roadmap to the OBA presidency. This is no small task given that there are more than 200 potential appointments that rotate from year to year. Each year the book must be customized and tailored to the incoming president. I believe anyone who has become president since Debbie has taken over building the book can attest that her work has made the job much more manageable. This is just one of the countless examples of work Debbie took to perfection.

Personally, I have enjoyed every minute of working with her. Working with Debbie was just plain fun. During times of stress and heavy workloads, we always found a way to laugh and keep our eye on the mission. Since my office handles associate membership applications, Debbie and I have seen a number of members who were forced to take associate membership status due to disabilities of various types. Debbie always exercised the utmost compassion and went out of her way to help those members who were struggling to get the paperwork done and retain their membership. On more than one occasion, Debbie worked with family members or other lawyers when members were too sick to navigate the paperwork. Not only did she diligently perform her duties, she genuinely cared about those who were suffering. I am sure she put them on her prayer list on more than one occasion.

Like most jobs at bar associations of our size, there are countless duties that are not found in any job description. Debbie is the person who reordered the president’s pin if one got lost. She is the one who maintained the inventory of cuff links and pins given to outgoing members of the Board of Governors. She ordered the gift baskets for visiting bar presidents at the Annual Meeting and prepared the scripts for the president, president-elect and me for every Annual Meeting.

There are a thousand details she attended to with absolute perfection, all the while maintaining my schedule and making sure nothing lived on my desk long. (Except when she rescued a potted plant I was killing.) Prior to coming to the OBA, Debbie had been a legal secretary and a darn good one. Her methods of maintaining workflow and attention to detail are second-to-none. She is an incredible editor and could create a spot-on first draft after only a brief conversation between us. Having worked together for so long, we often could literally finish each other sentences.

While I try to have no crying in bar work, I must admit my eyes are a bit moist over Debbie’s retirement. I’ve worked with excellent people throughout my career, but I have enjoyed working with no one more than Debbie Brink. I am eternally grateful we have had the incredibly great times we spent working together. I’m even more grateful for the extraordinary friendship and the opportunity every day to witness the magic that she worked. She truly is in a league of her own.

Thank you, Debbie! All the best to you in your retirement.

To contact Executive Director Williams, email him at johnw@okbar.org.


Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 93 Vol 3 (March 2022)