Radio talk show host Jim Hightower once said he didnt mind being called an agitator. The agitator, he reminded his audience, is the part of the washer that gets the dirt out.
Everything doesnt have be negative though, and I decided several years ago to use these column inches to draw attention to some government employees who did a good job every day, were glad to serve their friends and neighbors, and in general made our travels through the red tape a little more tolerable.
The year 2005 was no different from each preceding year. It found me contacting a wide variety of civil servants during the course of my personal and professional life. And like every other year, some of those public employees need to be on the street looking for another job. Others I met arent paid nearly enough for the work they do.
Let me introduce you to some of the people who work very hard to serve the public that pays their salary:
George Cherry, Walker County Schools central office: I first met George Cherry when my son was a student at Chattanooga Valley Elementary School. George was the assistant principal, and a favorite of both the staff and parents. He was later named principal at Gilbert Elementary. He has always cared deeply for his students, encouraged and supported his staff, and shown parents respect and appreciation. He is now applying his dedication to the office of coordinator of Title 1 Programs and Staff Development.
Lee McRae, Tennessee Valley Authority: McRae assumed the responsibilities of Alan Hulgan, a former Civil Service Award nominee. Hulgan assured me after he retired the level of service to which I was accustomed would not suffer. He was correct. Lee not only knows his way through the maze of information to be found in TVAs survey and easement archives, but hes glad to help you search through it until you find what you need. Its nice to know that customer service is alive and well within the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Billie Baker, Walker County Property Records Office: Billie is the sort of person you always want to see across the counter when youre standing in a government office. She is ready to help, no matter how busy she is or how difficult your request. She always brings a happy disposition to work. This is one office I dont mind visiting when I need information, because I know help is just around the corner or behind the desk, so to speak.
The Hamilton County Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Department: This is the first time an entire department has been nominated, but it would be unfair to single out one employee in such a user-friendly government department. GIS director Greg Butler is to be commended for assembling such a fine staff. Everyone in GIS deserves recognition for their efficiency and concern for their customers, but I want to extend a special thanks to Pam Brock, Kim McKinney and Ruth Gaynor. All of these ladies are ready to help, even when the customer is a Georgia Bulldog fan.
The winner of the 2005 In My Humble Opinion Civil Service Award is (requisite drum roll) Billie Baker, of the Walker County Property Records Office. Baker could easily have told me that the information I needed wasnt available, but instead she worked all morning to find the records I needed to work on a public sanitary sewer project. And thats the point as a public servant, she works diligently to serve the public.
The year 2006 is off to a good start Ive already run into a couple of Ciceros typical bureaucrats*, and a couple of potential nominees for next years award. So if you work for a public agency, remember that the next guy who walks up to your counter might be the one to tell the whole tri-state area how great you are at your job. Then again, if youre really an In My Humble Opinion Award-caliber employee, youll be doing your job whether or not you get any recognition. And youre exactly the kind of public employee Im looking to recognize this time next year.
*Ciceros quote regarding bureaucrats can be read on the worldwide web at: http://mike_north.tripod.com/id69.htm
Mike North is a professional land surveyor and amateur historian and former member of the Walker County school board. Send comments to him at Mike@myhumbleopinion.net. To read his past columns or contact him by Internet, visit www.myhumbleopinion.net.
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