MANAGER OF LA GRANDE'S LARGEST MOTEL RETIRES

August 28, 2002 11:00 pm
To remain active on local scene: After 14 years, Connie Gorrell is retiring as manager of the 146-room Howard Johnson Inn on Island Avenue. (The Observer/LAURA MACKIE -HANCOCK).
To remain active on local scene: After 14 years, Connie Gorrell is retiring as manager of the 146-room Howard Johnson Inn on Island Avenue. (The Observer/LAURA MACKIE -HANCOCK).

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Connie Gorrell went to work "for fun one summer" for a La Grande motel and became permanent fixture.

Now, 14 years later, she's retiring as manager of the 146-room Howard Johnson Inn on Island Avenue as of Sept. 15.

"I was an assistant secretary at Greenwood School and worked with handicapped children. I came to work for the motel in the summer," she said.

When it was time to go back to her job at the school, "the motel offered me more money and I was ready for a change."

She started out in the continental breakfast room and worked in various positions, including front-desk manager. Six years ago, she was named general manager of the largest motel in La Grande. She has 25 employees, most of them full-time, she said.

She also did audits for a number of years.

"Working here afforded me a lot of chances to travel," she said. "I had training in different areas in different cities. I went to New York City, Puerto Rico, Canada, La Vegas with the company."

She has no regrets about going into the motel business although she said it was a big job.

"It's hard at a motel of this size with only one manager. It's been a big responsibility, with 14-hour days. It's your life."

But she added, "It's a very diversified job, never boring. You meet a lot of great people.

"If you're a people person, I'd recommend a job in motel management or sales. It used to be that the pay was not very good, but that has changed," she said.

Working at Howard Johnson has provided a lot of opportunities to learn about the public and different situations, she said.

Gorrell, 56, and her husband, Darwin, 62, have six children, four of whom still live in this region. All but one worked at different times in the motel, she said.

The retirement last year of her husband as a Union Pacific Railroad conductor after 35 years prompted her to think about retiring, too.

They will do some traveling, including visiting kids in Utah and Idaho. They have 16 grandchildren.

But Gorrell said she won't disappear from the local scene. She served two years as president of the La Grande/Union County Visitors and Conventions Bureau board of directors.

She has been on the Blue Mountain Conference Center foundation board.

"I will still be involved with city activities," she said.

Her replacement has not yet arrived in La Grande and will take the job having never been here.