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This interview will take you through the ups and downs you can expect in a Chief Elections Clerk position, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more.
What is your job title? How many years of experience do you have in that field?
March of this year marked the beginning of my eighth year as the Chief Elections Clerk for a rural Oregon County. I am in charge of the daily operations and conduct of elections for approximately 40,000 registered voters.
Would you describe the things you do on a typical day?
As a standard eight-hour day, Monday through Friday, my typical daily routine involves helping and assisting the public and interacting with neighboring government agencies, including the State. Much of my daily duties involve detailed clerical skills. During Election cycles, which occur about four times a year, I administer ballots and count them when they are returned.
What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what response worked best?
As a Caucasian female, I have occasionally encountered angry gentlemen who ask to speak to “the man in charge”. Explaining that I am in charge, they are left with no other choice than to accept my assistance. Aside from that, the job is discrimination free.
On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What would it take to increase that rating?
When I consider my job, I value it at an 8, on a scale of 1-10. My opinion would jump to a 10 if my pay were moderately increased.
What did you learn the hard way in this job and how did that happen?
While I’ve had other jobs, this job taught me the hard way that sometimes what we know to be correct and true can never be believed by certain people. No matter how much evidence or proof you give some people, they will never see eye-to-eye or even try to meet you half-way.
What don’t they teach in school that would’ve been helpful to you?
I believe school has no way of teaching students the monotony and commitment level some careers require.
How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
I started in this job by sheer luck. The same week I graduated with my degree, this position opened. I mailed in an application, interviewed, and was offered the job within a week. There is absolutely nothing I would change in regards to my acceptance of the job, as it has fulfilled all my interests and educational background.
What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?
Elections make people do strange things since opinions run very high. While there have been many bizarre moments in the course of my career, the craziest moment was when a disgruntled candidate, who just received news they had lost the election, arrived drunk in our office. When he started causing a scene we asked for the Sheriff’s office to have him removed and as they apprehended him.
On a good day when things are going well, can you give an example of something that really makes you feel good?
A good day can make me feel very accomplished and proud. I get the greatest satisfaction from helping candidates achieve their goals.
When nothing seems to go right, what kind of snafus do you handle and what do you dislike the most?
Bad days do occur, fortunately not too often. Many times it’s a snafu caused by a conflict of personalities, which is also the part I dislike most about this job. I prefer to view my job as just that–a job, and it’s hard when it takes on a personal tone.
How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance?
Stress tends to go up and down with this job. There are good forms of stress (which I usually credit to staying busy and having a lot to do) and bad forms of stress. The bad stress is usually emotional, coming from people interacting inappropriately or in a hurtful manner. In order to maintain a healthy work-life balance, I remind myself that I am here to do a job and when other aspects start interfering with that, I know I need to stop that negativity.
What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough considering your responsibilities?
Since the position I hold is unique to each government entity, the salary can range anywhere from $30,000-$120,000. Pay depends greatly upon the amount of staff and voters you oversee. My county has kept this position as a non-administrative title, which has kept me protected through the Union, but making less money then some of my counterparts.
What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve experienced in this position? Of all the things you’ve done at work, what are you most proud of?
There are dozens of distinguished moments I can recall in the course of my career and to name just one as the most rewarding is difficult. However, I’d say I am most satisfied after finishing up a big election. It makes me proud to know how many weeks of work and time I invested into something that allows the country to operate under its democratic principles.
What’s the most challenging moment you’ve experienced? What would you prefer to forget?
The most challenging moments come when a coworker does not agree with me. Having a conflict with a customer or client is hard enough, but when a coworker is upset you have to continue to deal with them all day, every day. I wish I could forget the moments tempers have flared and words or comments were exchanged in frustration, but instead I have to just proceed onward and know that the moment was rare and unlikely to happen again.
What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?
Having an educational background in Political Science is not necessary but often sought in this position. Additional skill sets, such as administrative and clerical, can also help an individual succeed in this field.
What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?
If I had a friend considering this line of work, I would advise them to genuinely be passionate about the subject matter; otherwise it will become a mundane and tiresome job.
How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?
I accumulate 10 vacation hours a month. I also receive four “floating holidays” a year, which may be used at anytime. I personally believe it’s plenty of vacation time.
Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?
People commonly believe as a government employee I’m a “bureaucrat” who misuses funds. In reality I’m extremely frugal when it comes to our office finances.
Does this job move your heart? If not, what does?
This job moves my heart. I believe it’s an important job and if I wasn’t here a lot of people would suffer because of it.
If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?
In five years, I would like to be here or working for a neighboring government office doing the same job.
Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?
I believe my experience is unique because I have a genuine fascination with government and politics. The process of my job interests me and I’m a very driven and motivated person. Without those skill sets, I think it would be hard for a person to fulfill this role.
This is a true career story as told to ‘DiversityJobs.com street smart’ – a collection of true work-life stories told by members of minority groups (including women) from journalist to teacher and everything in between.