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Professionalism takes another turn in clerk race

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By Damon Lawrence

Professionalism has again become an issue in the race for Roane County circuit court clerk.

“Customer service has got to be addressed,” candidate Marty Miles said during a forum last week.

He wasn’t the only candidate who took aim at the issue.

“I will also position this office to operate by utilizing the utmost in professionalism,” Sarah Stewart said. “From personal appearance to proper phone etiquette.”

Miles, Stewart and Ann Goldston are running for circuit court clerk. Goldston currently works in the office as a deputy clerk.

“The customer service, there are times when we may get a little blunt with the public,” Goldston said. “We need to learn how to treat everybody the same, and that’s one of my deals – to guarantee a people friendly staff.”

When asked why he believes customer service needs to be addressed, Miles said, “I don’t feel like everybody gets a fair shake when they go to that (office) window.”

“I’ve got a standard that I expect out of my employees,” Miles added. “That’s treating people with respect. Treating them fair and being as consistent as possible.”

Bob Alford, Mona Gardner Wright and Kim Nelson were the candidates in the 2010 clerk’s race. Professionalism and the dress of office employees was an issue in that campaign.

“I also want people to look more professional,” Wright said in 2010, when discussing the office staff. “They work in a professional environment. I’m not talking three-piece suits or dresses, but no cartoon T-shirts, no flip flops. I don’t want it to look like a day at the beach.”

Nelson went on to win the 2010 race for clerk.

“I think that there’s been an improvement in the dress code,” she said last week. “I have implemented the dress code, and it’s been followed. That’s all I’m going to say about that.”

Stewart said she believes personal appearance and work ethic go hand in hand.

“How you present yourself and look says a lot about the office,” she said. “I think it also says a lot about the work you do. If you’re sloppy, nine times out of 10, with me being a manager and seeing it, your work is going to be sloppy.”

Stewart said she would address personal appearance by implementing her own dress code.

“It might be something as simple as everyone wear black slacks or khakis and maybe a collared shirt,” she said. “Something along those lines.”

Goldston said she doesn’t see a problem with the way the employees dress.

“People have what they have,” Goldston said. “Not everybody in that office has money running out their ears to run out and buy fancy clothes. You do the best you can do.”

Miles said he thinks the way the employees dress now is fine, but he would like to implement a system where employees would be required to wear polo shirts with their last name on the right-hand side.

“If somebody goes up there and they get bad customer service, they can call me and say so-and-so said this to me, instead of just saying the lady at the window,” he said. “They’ll be able to identify exactly which one treated them unfairly. I think that is very important.”

Miles said the cost to implement that policy would be minimal.

“As much as a polo shirt would cost – $10 a piece and have it embroidered,” he said. “That would be a very, very, very small expense to the county. I think the expense vs. the quality of service that you get would outweigh everything. Quality is what we’re looking for.”

Goldston mentioned doing something similar.

“A nice polo with our office logo and the name, and then you wouldn’t have to worry about buying extra clothes for work and you could be easily identified as an employee,” she said.

Nelson is not seeking re-election as circuit court clerk. She’s running for public defender unopposed.

She declined to comment when asked about Miles assertion that clerk’s office employees don’t give everyone a “fair shake.”