More than just a voice

26 Jul, 2001 07:12 AM
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"SHE smiles down the telephone line" is how one member described Lesley Weids, the owner of the voice that greets callers when they ring the WA Farmers Federation's office in Perth.

The WAFF has long been aware that the front desk is the first point of contact for most people or organisations who contact them, and they are also aware that they have a winner in Lesley.

She started working for the WAFF back in February 1989, not a permanent position, but a temporary job that was to last for six week and involved helping with some collating in the office.

The six weeks stretched to 12 months and when a vacancy appeared for a receptionist, Lesley moved from the back room to the front desk and started in the job she still holds.

"I can remember those early days when it was a full-time job handling the phone and front desk, and I can also remember when a typewriter was added for those quiet moments when the phone was unusually silent," she said.

The current desk comes complete with the latest generation phone system as well as a computer terminal so that her full-time job is definitely "full time," even when the phone takes a bit of time off.

Lesley arrived from Birmingham back in 1963 and confesses that her only experience with farming before WAFF was when she worked as a receptionist at "Farmers," a large supermarket at Karratha.

Her husband Alan is a diesel mechanic and spent many years working on rigs and in the mining industry, eventually giving it away to start his own business in Perth, "away from all the travelling".

During her period with WAFF, she has seen many people pass through the doors, members and office bearers, but most of the members only know her from her voice.

Lesley enjoys helping out during the Annual Conference because she "likes putting a face on the voices" she has heard over the years, a pleasure shared by the members who finally catch up with her.

Perhaps her most amazing feat is remembering the names that go with the voices, a facility that is most impressive although she has no conscious system to achieve it and "doesn't know how" she does it.

All sorts of people ring the WAFF and not all are happy or inquiring, although she is not concerned about the angry callers encountered along the way because "they are not angry with me".

"They are generally angry with the world and happy to have someone to talk to," she said, although she did confess that her fall-back position for really angry callers is to just "put them through".

The strangest call she has had over the years was from the police some time ago, warning that an anonymous caller had rung and claimed that a bomb had been placed somewhere in the building.

"We spent hours standing around outside," she said, adding that they were later informed that the hoaxer was an employee in one of the other offices in the building who was bored and "wanted to knock-off early".

She started work at WAFF during the last few weeks of Winston Crane's term as General President which means that current GP, Colin Nichol, is the fifth president she has worked with during her time.

During that same period she has also seen six different people occupy the CEO's chair ‹ Tim Ryan was in charge when she started, while the current occupant, Doug Parker, is number six.

One of the CEOs told me that Lesley's salary review one year consisted of a statement from her that said: "I love my job and I would do it for nothing if I had to". The first half of her statement was appreciated, while the second half was not necessary.

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