Parker family makes valuable Opelika asset
By Donna Williamson
Scott Parker, Opelika City Engineer, grew up in Auburn, never having much contact with Opelika or its citizens. In fact, he and his family were hesitant at first about moving to Opelika when he was hired for this position. Now, almost two years later, Parker and his wife Miki have bought a home here that they “love” and feel this is the best move they ever made. Their daughters Carly and Ava are enjoying school and have made many friends.Miki tells everyone she meets that “Opelika is the best kept secret.”
Parker always refers to his wife as Miki, as do all of her family and friends, even though her real name is Michelle. Some of Miki’s family members are long time Opelika natives and her mother’s family still has deep roots in the community.
Parker received his degree in civil engineering from Auburn University where his dad Frazier Parker was a civil engineering professor. “I went into civil engineering and my professors were my dad’s friends,” he said.
After college he worked for the highway department in Elmore County before taking a job in Nashville, Tennessee. “Miki and I moved farther away from home and became a more independent married couple,” Parker said.
When Carly was three and a half years old, they moved back to Auburn so Carly could spend more time with her grandparents. Parker worked at Auburn University for a while. Then he took a job at Ft. Benning, commuting from Auburn. Parker said, “I floated from job to job and never knew where I was destined to be.”
While at Ft. Benning, Parker started looking for a job closer to home. “I applied for the city engineer position in Opelika and was called back for an interview. The interview went well. I was impressed with Opelika, the administration, and the community feel and potential,” Parker said. “After my second interview, I was offered the job and accepted it. As a city employee, Mayor Fuller thought it was important for us to become residents of Opelika.”
Parker said that although he and Miki were nervous about moving their family “a whole five miles,” it turned out to be the best decision they ever made.
Parker was also worried about Carly and Ava moving to Opelika and leaving a school system that they had known their entire lives. However, he was especially concerned for Carly, who at the age of seven, was diagnosed with mesenchymal chondrosarcoma, a rare cartilage/soft tissue tumor that fills the nasal passage. After the tumor was found, Carly had her first surgery at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. Parker explained, “In the first major surgery to remove the mass in her sinus cavity, the doctors performed a surgery through her face to remove the tumor.”
After the surgery in Birmingham, Carly went to M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, Texas. “The doctors at M. D. Anderson felt Carly needed more surgery, plus radiation. This one lasted 12 hours and was followed by days of sedation,” he said. Afterwards, she had proton radiation, which is radiation concentrated to that one area, not damaging. The surgeries and treatments started in November and by the end of the school year we were done.”
According to Parker, Carly has had a few setbacks. The sarcoma went to her lungs, and she had lung surgery, followed by chemotherapy. “She has had six recurrences with minor surgeries, along with proton radiation again,” Parker said. “The latest setback was a tumor found on her optic nerve. The radiation used to treat this caused nerve damage to her left temporal area.”
Parker said that Carly is now on a maintenance inhibitor drug and is stable, no new cancer. “Carly is doing better. The pain meds work,” he said. “With every relapse, we thought that there could be a possibility that we would lose her. We put our faith in God and realize every day is a gift.”
Parker is very grateful to Mayor Fuller and the administration for being so understanding and letting the girls pace their transition to a new school and for allowing them to finish their school year at Auburn. The girls enrolled in the Opelika City School System last year. Carly is in the ninth grade at Opelika High School and Ava is in the fourth grade at Northside Intermediate School. “The girls love their schools and have made many friends, especially Carly. Carly can associate with every group. Everybody loves her. Carly calls Opelika her ‘family’,” Parker said.
The girls are very different with varied interests. “Ava is like a rubber ball that bounces back and adjusts to everything. She is athletic, focused, and independent. Carly is very creative and not the least bit self-conscious of her scars. She has the same issues as all 15 year-olds. She is an emotional, dramatic, pain-in-the-butt teenager,” Parker says with a laugh. “However, we thank God that she is here with us, so we have learned to embrace the emotions and drama.”
Parker knows that he and his family have a “great situation” in Opelika. “It’s incredible what’s happening here, trying to restore what we have. My job as city engineer is to encourage that. We want this area to be that spot that everyone goes to,” he said. “My goal is to improve what’s inside. Opelika is a very old city, with an old infrastructure that we must improve. I get tremendous support from the mayor, city council, and the administration.”
Parker loves everything about Opelika and hopes the city continues to transform into the “best kept secret.” He wants “to retire here in Opelika” and has no plans to ever leave. Parker and his family have finally found the place that they are “destined to be.”