By: Tracy Nash

The 2017 Tom & T. Cooper James Government Improvement Awards were a success!  Two outstanding projects, the Tax Department’s Reappraisal Online Project and the Department of Social Services’ Children’s Services Recruitment and Retention Program, received awards and were recognized at the December 7, 2017 Board of Commissioner meeting.

The Reappraisal Online Project was developed by members of the Tax and Information Services Departments to educate taxpayers on the reappraisal process, improve access to sales data utilized by appraisers and streamline the appeal process. During prior appraisals, Tax staff worked overtime to field numerous phone calls from citizens requesting sales data and handled a high volume of appeals paperwork.  The reappraisal online project guides taxpayers through the 2017 revaluation with a suite of user-friendly online tools that includes: a comprehensive tutorial video to assist with site navigation and detailed explanation of the reappraisal process, electronic tax record review and verification, a comparable sales search tool, and online informal and formal appeals submission.

The project eliminated the need to contract with outside vendors for development and implementation, and has the potential to save the county approximately $200,000 over the next five years. Savings and avoided costs associated with the program include reduced overtime, office supplies and software.  Additionally, Tax staff reported a substantial decrease in the number of calls fielded and paper appeal forms submitted during the 2017 revaluation. Eligible award winning team members, sharing a $2,500 award, were: Donna Bailey (Appraiser II), Linda Hancock (GUI Developer), Ted Penn (Appraiser II).

The Children’s Services Recruitment and Retention Program was developed by the DHHS-DSS Children’s Services Quality Assurance (QA) Training team to address agency-wide concerns around hiring and retaining quality child welfare social workers with a passion for protecting our community’s most vulnerable citizens – our children.  The program consists of several key components: a structured interview process where candidates experience a realistic job preview and participate in case scenarios, fact-finding interviews and written exercises;  a 40 hour onboarding/orientation that introduces each new hire to the division and provides clear, consistent information on agency expectations and practices; one-on-one mentoring with QA staff for job-specific training upon completion of orientation; and ongoing policy/practice training that reinforces existing state and local policies, and introduces new policies and procedures consistently.

The Children’s Services Recruitment and Retention Program is estimated to save $30,000 in staff time, productivity loss, and other associated expenses. Eligible award winning team members, sharing a $2,500 award, were: Cheyenne Paylor (Social Work Supervisor-Protective Services), Sue Reckert (Social Worker Protective Services), Cheri Neal (Social Worker Protective Services), ReAndra Blade (Social Worker Protective Services), Lynn Loomis (Social Worker Protective Services), Lindsay Althaus (Office Specialist), and Yolanda Ewing (HR Sr. Analyst).

Remaining applicants included; Li Raspberry (Web/Internet Developer), Bradley Steele (Sr. Software/Internet Developer), and Brenda Wallace (Elections Technical Specialist).

The Tom & T. Cooper James Government Improvement Awards were made possible by a $5,000 donation from T. Cooper James & Associates. The awards recognize county employees who think creatively when solving problems and providing service to the community. Look for the 2018 applications in Summer 2018.  If you have any questions about the awards program, please send an e-mail to