During the month of February, my posts will feature Women in Local Government, focusing on their roles and highlighting their contributions to the community. This week, we meet Teresa and Sandy, two individuals committed to serving the town of Canton in their roles as Accounting Clerks.
When visitors walk through the double glass door of the William G. Stamey Municipal Building in downtown Canton, NC, they are typically welcomed by a friendly greeting from Sandy or Teresa. Beyond being the first town employees that residents interact with, Sandy and Teresa keep the front office running smoothly by managing a diverse list of responsibilities. They field questions about trash pick up, board meetings, water services, facility rentals, and more, a task that often requires a lot of patience. Sandy and Teresa warmly welcomed me when I began my PWE and have since been very kind to answer my ongoing questions, including the ones for this interview! As they explained, to work in these positions, a person must have a strong understanding of local government and “everything that happens in town hall.” Serving in the position of Accounting Clerk involves more than just answering questions; they also process financial transactions and collect payments. Occasionally, their duties take them outside the office where they have participated in everything from working the Labor Day concert to driving a utility vehicle alongside town officials in the Christmas parade.
Despite the challenge of having to deal with complaints, Sandy and Teresa had a lot to say when I asked what they enjoy most about their jobs. They described how working in public service was more fulfilling than their previous positions in the private sector. Leaving at the end of a day knowing they have helped someone solve a difficult problem makes the job enjoyable. When describing the benefits of working in local government, they emphasized teamwork, learning, and community involvement. With a small staff, events like the Labor Day Festival requires months of planning and involves staff from every department. This is a point that might surprise people. As Sandy explained, “residents wake up and their trash can is empty or they show up to a large event like the Labor Day Festival and think it just happens. They don’t often think about the hours of work it takes from people behind the scenes.” According to Sandy and Teresa, having a good team not only makes a job more manageable, it also makes it fun.
Another perk to working in local government which Sandy and Teresa discussed is the opportunity to learn more about how the town functions. Years into their careers, they both indicated that they continue to learn something new every day. Learning about local government helps foster a better connection with the town and facilitates community involvement. For this series, I conclude every interview with the same question: What advice do you have for someone interested in working in local government? Their suggestion: Get involved in the community! At this point in the interview another staff person wandered into the conversation, and she seconded this recommendation. She also highlighted the importance of staying informed through attending board meetings or reading the minutes (available online). When I asked Sandy and Teresa if they would recommend a career in local government, they responded without hesitation, “yes!”