|HR Director Karen Day nominated for newspaper award|
HR Director Karen Day did not receive the newspaper recognition from the Tallahassee Democrat, but we know the great value of her contributions to the agency.
25 WOMEN YOU NEED TO KNOW
It was a pleasure to submit Gail Campbell as a candidate for the Tallahassee Democrat’s 25 Women You Need to Know feature in 2013 and I feel I have another very worthy candidate for selection this year. She is Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office Human Resources Director Karen Day.
I think you will agree when I tell you a little about Karen’s career and the many things she has done for the Wakulla County community and for the sheriff’s office.
I met Karen Day more than 20 years ago when she was working for the Wakulla County Tax Collector. She had an impact on the community back then and her impact continues today as she serves what she calls “my family.” Her “family” is the group of men and women who serve Wakulla County through the sheriff’s office and she is one of the most dedicated “mothers” you will ever meet.
For a rural county like Wakulla, it was always challenging to give visitors directions to get to locations without using phrases such as “turn left at the big oak tree” or “take a right just beyond the huge rock.”
For those individuals living in a larger community, having streets named and being able to find a citizen in distress with an ambulance is fairly common. But in a rural county that was not always the case. It became very important as the county grew to make sure our citizens had the best chance possible to survive a health emergency and make it to the hospital in time for doctors to make a difference in their lives. The first step in that process was being able to locate the citizen quickly from hundreds of miles of dirt roads.
During her time with the sheriff’s office she has also served as the Finance Director, Information Technology, Computer guru, Maintenance Division, Fleet Management and Purchasing as the agency and county grew.
Karen’s personality was a key element in making the E-911 system work. “I never met a stranger. I entered homes with marble floors and dirt floors. It was the best time of my life,” she told me.
Karen was able to push the county forward through a period of rapid growth and technological changes. Her personality helped ease the fear of the community and provided her with great cooperation from the county as information was collected and shared in the Public Safety data base to benefit the entire county.
“It was such a fun time and you knew you were doing something good for the community,” she said. “I met so many wonderful people and we had such unity between the fire, ambulance and law enforcement branches.”
Karen carried a hammer and nails in her vehicle in case she ran into a senior citizen who needed to have their house number posted on a tree in order for public safety to find them. “I was treated nicely everywhere I went.”
As the system operated smoothly and the county enjoyed great prosperity, Karen changed gears to become WCSO HR Director and help members of what she calls her family.
As HR Director she wears many hats. She now must handle insurance issues for the agency as well as, health issues, benefits, hirings, discipline, court cases, training paperwork, accreditation standards, performance evaluations, open enrollment and annual health shots for WCSO staff.
The sheriff’s office has prospered and grown during her time of employment and much of the credit goes to her. A staff of 80 employees grew to as many as 170 at its peak.
During Karen’s time in the WCSO we have advanced from Tandy computers and one printer to print offense reports and only radios in the patrol vehicles for deputies to having advanced software and computers in the office and patrol vehicles that make work easier and safer for employees.
A final story of her compassion toward her fellow man during her time as HR Director involved a recently hired employee who was speaking to her about what should be included as benefits and deductions from the employee’s paycheck.
Karen made it her life’s mission to get to know staff well enough that she knew this employee needed to take out an insurance policy on his spouse when he was hired. The employee trusted Karen because of her vast experience and agreed to purchase an insurance policy for his spouse.
A short time later the employee’s spouse was diagnosed with terminal cancer and 39 months after that his wife died. At a time of great financial stress and sorrow, Karen reminded the employee that the insurance policy would be coming to help. She called the company on the west coast in an effort to speed up the claims process. Shortly thereafter the check arrived in the mail and the employee was able to pay the end of life bills without destroying his financial nest egg.
It was all in a day’s work for Karen and she just shrugged off the impact her insight had on the new employee who could have made a huge mistake on his first day of work. Her experience and compassion helped the employee avoid a negative impact on the rest of his life. She also kept up with the employee in the following weeks to make sure the transition from longtime cancer caregiver to widower was going as well as possible.
I know the story well because I was the employee and it was my spouse who died of cancer and it was Karen who was at my home with my sheriff the morning my wife’s body was removed from her bed. So when the Tallahassee Democrat team reviews applications for a dynamic woman who has had a major impact on Wakulla County, they can know that they truly found one here.