With pandemic-induced restrictions relaxing, Texas Association of Counties (TAC) staff memberse are meeting face-to-face with members again, while educating some of their own on how county government works.
TAC human resources staff and County Relations Officers (CROs) have launched a ride-along program to send newly hired TAC staff members on day trips to select counties. The effort gives TAC employees a chance to learn more about county government and about how elected officials serve their constituents, and it helps them put into perspective the work that county officials do.
“The experience really helps connect the dots between an employee’s new role at the Association and the counties we serve,” said Human Resources Training Coordinator and former Sherman County Judge and Justice of the Peace Kim Joyce, who developed the program. “It prepares new employees to provide unbelievable customer service to our members.”
Joyce along with CROs Alan Bristol, Rhita Koches and Tramer Woytek — all former elected officials — accompany staff members.
Also resuming travels are consultants who serve the Risk Management Pool and the Health and Employee Benefits Pool.
For staff members, being able to go to counties in person again has been crucial because of the work they do. TAC Health and Benefits Services (HBS) Employee Benefits Consultants, for example, provide on-site discussions to explain programs, enroll employees and answer benefit questions. Wellness Consultants travel across Texas providing on-site support for programs and seminars that help employees get and stay healthy.
“It makes the counties feel complete because we have a huge presence in the counties,” said Wellness Consultant Shameria Davis. “Although we’ve made connections in other ways, there are moments when a phone call or email won’t suffice because members will tell us things in person that they didn't remember before.”
TAC Risk Management Services (TAC RMS) expects 20 staff members to resume meeting face to face with county officials and employees more regularly. TAC RMS staff members include consultants in law enforcement, human resources, risk control and risk management, as well as simulator operators. Before the pandemic, consultants were meeting with more than 150 counties every three months.
“You build relationships by being in-person. It’s the easiest and the quickest way,” said TAC Risk Control Manager Clem Zabalza. “But the fact that a lot of our consultants have deep relationships with our members, the virtual option has opened up.”
Members continue to want virtual conferences as an option, Employee Benefits Consultant Ernesto Martinez said.
“They allow members who can’t travel or have budget constraints to be able to participate,” he said.
Zabalza said staff will continue to practice protective measures to ensure members feel comfortable meeting physically. These measures include wearing personal protective equipment and monitoring personal health conditions and the prevalence of the coronavirus in the counties they visit.
“We don't want be that person that goes to that member and is a superspreader,” Zabalza said. “It's really about protecting our members.”