Burkett honored for cemetery management

Community Portrait
By: Michael Kirby
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“You name it, I do it,” says Sue Burkett. Burkett is the district manager of the Auburn Public Cemetery District. Her office is located on the pristine grounds of the New District Cemetery, and Burkett finds the surroundings to her liking — peaceful and beautiful. During Burkett’s day she does indeed do many jobs. “That’s what is interesting about the job. Not one day is ever the same,” Burkett said. “I wear many different hats.” Burkett’s responsibilities include budgeting and personnel work for the district, dealing with legislative changes, helping families with burial arrangements and working with the Cemetery District Board of Trustees. The Auburn Public Cemetery District is composed of two cemeteries in Auburn. One is the Old Auburn Cemetery on Fulweiler Avenue and the other is the New District Cemetery located west of the old cemetery on Collins Drive. The old cemetery dates back to the 1800s, and the new cemetery opened in the 1960s. The new cemetery has enough land to provide burial needs to the Auburn community for about 20 years, Burkett estimates. “The trustees years ago were very wise in purchasing land and have a total of 63 acres of adjoining land for future use,” she said. In her wildest imagination Burkett couldn’t have predicted that she would be in the position she’s in today but admits that she finds her job very rewarding. Her educational background includes degrees in business and ethnic studies, and for years she worked as a financial analyst in Southern California. Burkett moved to the Auburn area in 1993 and in 1999 applied for a job with the district as a bookkeeper. In 2004 she became the district manager and has since been recognized for the work in her field. In September 2005 Burkett completed a special course of study and was recognized by the Special District Leadership Foundation for proving her commitment to the community by continuing her education and training. In May 2008 she earned a certificate of appreciation from the American Legion Post 84 for her work with the local veteran associations, assisting with burial services for veterans and helping veterans’ organizations on Memorial Day each year to pay tribute to all those who have died in service to their country. In March 2008 Burkett became the first recipient of a new statewide award and was recognized as manager of the year by the California Association of Public Cemeteries. Burkett was considered for the award by going above her job description to meet the needs of her district, acting as a role model, projecting positive and professional image and understanding financial concerns, but allowing the district to expand, improve and grow. In May, Burkett passed a special exam for district managers demonstrating her knowledge and skill level in all areas as a special district administrator and was awarded with a Special District Administrator Certification. Fewer than 50 administrators in California’s 3,400 special districts receive this certification. “The most personally rewarding aspect of my job is that I hope I’m helping people through a very difficult time in their lives,” Burkett said. “Listening to people’s love stories as they talk about sentimental moments they remember about a loved one that has passed, is very memorable,” she said. “Quite honestly I never thought I would have a job working in a cemetery, but I wouldn’t trade this job for anything. I work with a great group of dedicated people.”