LAS VEGAS – Sandy Gwatney has something in her trophy case nobody else can claim.
For the first time in ProRodeo history, the same person was selected as the Secretary of the Year in both the premier organizations – the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association – in the same year.
“The best part of my job is being able to help the cowboys, cowgirls and committees and try to make their jobs easier,” said Gwatney of Marquez, Texas.
That’s a big reason she earned both honors. She received word Oct. 3 about the WPRA honor but didn’t know about the outcome of the PRCA voting until the year-end awards banquet that took place Nov. 30 in conjunction with the sport’s grand finale, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
“It was a complete and total surprise,” she said. “This is the third time I’ve been nominated. When they called my name, I looked over at my husband, John; he jumped up, and everybody at the table was screaming. I had to take it in and make sure they really called my name.”
The announcement confirmed what members of the PRCA had decided through a vote of the top five secretaries, and it allowed Gwatney to offer her thanks to a packed ballroom at the South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa.
“I feel honored to be part of that list of five,” she said. “There are a lot of good secretaries, a lot of people that love what they do. I guess mine just happened to show through this year.”
It did. The PRCA features thousands of members, and Gwatney collected the majority of the votes in 2016.
“She puts all of her effort into her job and is devoted to it,” said JoJo LeMond, who finished sixth in the steer roping world standings and 10th in the all-around race. “She’s worked all ends of a rodeo, not just as a secretary. She’s been sorting cattle, running a neck rope and doing all sorts of other things, so she understands all aspects of a rodeo.
“She’s a very valuable player for a rodeo organization.”
It’s true, and it’s something in which she takes great pride.
“The committee people are the most un-thanked, underappreciated people in the world,” Gwatney said. “If I can do anything for them and make one step easier and make sure they’re appreciated, it’s easy enough for me to get that done.”
But that’s not all she does. As secretary, she has her fingers in every aspect of every rodeo she works. She is the greeting face for every contestant who enters her work space and makes sure the officials and other rodeo personnel have everything they need.
That group includes her husband. John Gwatney is a hard-working and well recognized chute boss in ProRodeo. The couple travels together and shares successes.
“This is huge, because we travel about the countryside doing what we love,” said Sandy Gwatney, who was raised in northern California. “This is about the love of the game, and we can never say it enough. I think it’s a huge part of my life that I got to compete with him, that I got to haze for him when he was still bulldogging.
“I got to see the contestant side of it, so I know how important it is that they get trades and they get the splits they need. I think that experience helps me exponentially in my job.”
She has worked as secretary of the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping each of the past three years. Over her career, Gwatney has timed that same championship as well as the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo; she also has been the NFR’s assistant secretary. Each step has served as a testament to her talent and passion.
“If you don’t love what you do, don’t do it,” she said. “I do this because of the people. I like to go all over the country and see all the people I only get to see once a year. It’s like spending time with family.
“I’m very blessed to have committees and stock contractors who believe in me, like Pete Carr. Most of the rodeos I work are with Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, so I appreciate Pete for having faith in what we do.”
The rodeo family is large, and generations run deep. This year they honored one of their own in Sandy Gwatney.