Bayou La Batre, Ala.
Donna Gainey grew up here in the picturesque fishing village of Bayou La Batre, Ala., – went to school only a mile away, married a local boy, and made the tiny City Hall on Wintzell Avenue her home away from home.
This is all she's known. All she's ever wanted to know. For 32 years, she's watched mayors and council members come and go, but still she remains. That suits her just fine.
She gazes at the city seal, which bears a hand-drawn image of a shirtless, barefooted shrimper hauling his catch aboard a boat. She was good with numbers. She could have gone anywhere. But she wanted to stay here. So much so that when she turned 62, two years ago, she decided to forgo retirement.
"I just love my job," says the city clerk, framing the words slowly. "I love people."
Of course, there are the job benefits to consider, and those weighed heavily in her choice to continue working. A decade ago, she battled breast cancer, and though she's well now, health insurance is important to her.
There's her granddaughter to consider as well. She and her husband, Lamar, are raising the 14-year-old. Even though the teen has lost her penchant for Aéropostale hoodies – mercifully – it's still expensive to raise a child in today's economy. Mr. Gainey supplements their income through his work as a security guard at a local medical center.