One of Roxanne Exposito’s first jobs as a Union High School graduate was to fill doughnuts in a doughnut shop.
Her doughnut career lasted two days, then the owner discovered she was overzealous in injecting the cream filling and it went everywhere. She went on to other jobs before she finally found the one that has suited her for most of her life.
Now, after typing thousands of papers and sorting out homicide and other criminal cases under five successive Lawrence County district attorneys, Exposito, at age 64, has decided it’s time to live the life of leisure. The longtime secretary and office manager will retire today, ending a 40-year career in the district attorney’s office.
Exposito said her decision didn’t take much thought when the county commissioners earlier this month offered an attractive early retirement incentive to eligible county employees, who would have to retire between Sept. 21 and Nov. 27. Plus, she is recovered — but still feeling a little beat up — from when her household was wracked with coronavirus five months ago.
“It was terrible,” she said, adding that she still feels tired out at night.
For many years, Roxanne has been the first person anyone would see when entering the district attorney’s office. She has been keeper to the buzzer on the office door and the person who generally screens the visitors.
After the doughnut shop escapade, Roxanne worked in various businesses, including Troutman’s downtown New Castle and Card Land at Westgate Plaza. Both have long since closed.
She was working at Kirby Sweeper Co. on Wilmington Road when it also closed, and the owner had arranged two interviews for her for other potential jobs. One was for a secretary position at the Towne Mall, and the other was with District Attorney Donald Williams for a clerical position in his office.
Williams interviewed her on a Wednesday and called her that night to tell he she would start the following Monday, she remembers. The district attorney’s office at the time was located inside a house across from the courthouse, and it has moved a few times since then to its current location on the first floor of the courthouse annex.
Exposito worked for Williams for two years until his term expired and William Panella was elected to the position. Panella was her boss as district attorney for 16 years.
When he left office, Matthew T. Mangino succeeded him and served eight years, and Exposito stayed on. After that she worked for former district attorney John Bongivengo, and ultimately, she has worked for Joshua Lamancusa for the past 10 years that he has been the district attorney.
She remembers starting out answering phones for Williams. She was considered a part-time employee then, but she worked eight hours every day. Through the years, she took on various jobs in the office, and eventually there were three office workers. She would do revocations, set up cases for preliminary hearings and pleas, assemble the trial lists and pay the bills.
“For awhile I’d take things home at night or stay late to get everything done,” she said. “The attorneys would need to have motions typed up for court. I kind of did my own shorthand.”
Don Williams prosecuted all of the homicide cases himself, and she helped him with the paperwork in the investigations.
“It was interesting to me,” she said. Williams taught her things about it, and she helped him in that capacity for a couple of years. “I really enjoyed that. I just loved the job.”
At one point, each office person was assigned to work with an assistant district attorney, she said.
She has special fond memories of when Judge J. Craig Cox and Thomas Minett were an assistant district attorneys. The two became good friends, working on homicides and other cases together, and they shared a back-and-forth humor and camaraderie.
“They were so funny, they were a lot of fun to work with,” she said. “I was excited when Judge Cox became a judge, but I felt bad because we were going to miss him here.”
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Her face brightened again when she described what kind of boss and mentor Lamancusa has been.
“Josh is a very good boss,” she said emphatically. “He’s been really good to all of us.”
She also has loved her work, she said. “You come in and do your job every day, but there’s always something new you have to do.”
She had to miss several weeks of work earlier this year when she fell ill and around mid-April learned she was most likely afflicted with the novel coronavirus.
Her husband, Francis “Poncho” Exposito, the Mahoning Township fire chief, suffered with it the worst with a severe bout of pneumonia, and he had to go to Pittsburgh for his COVID-19 test, which was positive, she said. Roxanne doesn’t know who in her family contracted it first, but she feels thankful that everyone has recovered from it.
Before Poncho’s diagnosis, she was feeling sick with a low-grade temperature, dry cough, chest congestion, sinusitis and difficulty breathing. She went to the doctor and tested positive for influenza A, she said.
At the same time, Poncho tested positive for COVID-19. She didn’t get tested for that, because her doctor told her that all of her symptoms were the same as his, and he didn’t want her to infect other people by going to have the test. At the same time, their daughter, Jessica, who also works in the district attorney’s office, showed symptoms — she lost her sense of taste and smell.
Roxanne contacted the state Department of Health and was told that she and Jessica were listed as “probable cases.” They were quarantined, and Poncho was in bed for about three weeks with the virus, she said.
“It was scary,” she said. “I was afraid if he went to the hospital he wouldn’t come home.”
Then she lost her sense of smell, she ran a low-grade fever and her toes turned blue, she said, which is one of the symptoms of the illness. The inside of her nose had a burning sensation extending up to her forehead and she was so tired she couldn’t do half of the things she normally could do, she said.
“I’d get up in the morning and then lie back down until late afternoon,” she said.
She and her family still refrain from going to grocery stores, and Jessica does a lot of ordering online, she said. When they were sick, they used DoorDash nearly every night.
Their granddaughter, Alexis, who also lives with them, was spared the illness and at age 13 pretty much took care of everyone and took their temperatures, Roxanne said.
Exposito says she she’s venturing into the unknown with no real retirement plans.
“It’s kind of scary leaving here,” she said, she admitted.
Lamancusa said that Exposito will leave a marked absence in his offices. When he took over as district attorney, her transition into working under him as a new supervisor “was seamless,” he said. “She never missed a beat. Roxanne will be deeply missed here,” Lamancusa commented. “She has had a positive impact in the office spanning 40 years and five district attorneys. I feel comfortable in saying on behalf of all of those who superseded me, ‘thank you, Roxanne, for everything you have done to make the DA’s office the best it can be.'”