Community activist Beulah Garrett, former Lebanon Planning commissioner, came to Lebanon in 1990 and said lessons learned prior to her move have shaped her life and her involvement in the community.
Garrett, 86, described her childhood as “terrible” after her parents divorced when she was 8 years old, which forced her to live on a farm with her grandparents. After the death of her grandmother, she was forced to fend for herself.
“I put myself through the last two years of high school and through college. I worked my way through, and I just always knew there’s something out there better for you if you always look on the sunny side of the road and don’t dwell in the past,” Garrett said.
Garrett moved to Oklahoma with her husband following college, and the couple eventually moved to California.
Garrett worked as file clerk for Northup Grumman, where she said she would finish her work and offer to help in other departments. She worked her way up to a vice president position and became the only woman on the management team among 300 men.
“I worked hard. I worked many hours and earned everything I got. I tell young people to do their job, do it well and when you finish, offer to help somebody else. That’s the only way to get ahead,” she said.
Garrett would likely still be in California if Deloitte hadn’t moved its corporate headquarters from New York to Hermitage. Garrett’s son, Ernie, worked for Deloitte in California and received a recommendation for a corporate headquarters position after many New York employees declined to move with the company.
Garrett said he would only move if she came with him, since he moved back to their home after her husband died in 1983. She agreed, and the family made the move to Lebanon and settled in the South Fork community.
Former Lebanon Mayor Don Fox approached Garrett in 1991 and asked for her to serve on the Lebanon Planning Commission, which she agreed. She also agreed to serve on the commission under former Mayor Philip Craighead.
She also has served on the Senior Citizens Board, among other committees, and was involved with the Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce.
“I try to stay involved in everything politically that goes on, whether it’s a civic duty or something to do with churches or colleges,” she said. “I just think that when God plants you in a community, you need to be involved in what’s happening in the community.”
Garrett quit the Lebanon Planning Commission last year after differences among the group and city leadership.
“I prayed and cried about it for about two weeks,” said Garrett, who said the final straw came when another commissioner made public comments about the situation.
“I have not missed it. It took a lot of my energy, time and prayer. I feel like God was through with me in that capacity, and it was time for something else,” she said.
Garrett said although she quit the commission, life has continued to bless her.
“As long as I’m able to make a difference and see things grow in the proper way, that’s what I want to do until he takes me home, then I will know I did what I was supposed to do. That’s each one of our requirements – make a difference where you are,” she said.
Garrett said one of her missions to be a mentor whenever possible, which includes being a mentor to her caretakers.
“Young people need someone to teach, mentor and help them to give them a hand up and not to scold them. A lot of people don’t do different because they don’t know different. No one took the time to explain to them what the consequences were. If our young people had someone to do that, it would be a better Lebanon and a better world,” she said.
Garrett said she loves living in Lebanon and especially South Fork, which still holds an annual holiday brunch and cookie exchange, which Garrett started in 1990 when she moved to Lebanon.
She said she saw the heart of Lebanon on full display when she had multiple surgeries in 2014.
“I had so much company, and so many people came to see me. I love the heart of the people in Lebanon. They care. People here really, really care, and that’s something you don’t find in most places,” she said.