“Service with a smile” is more than a catch-phrase. It's a concept that helps ensure employees are happy and better able to serve citizens.

Presentation is vital. Remembering the following helps:

  • Establish rapport by using matching, mirroring, and leading techniques.
  • 93% of communication is non-verbal, so smile when you talk on the phone—and mean it. Your body language communicates more than your words.
  • Don't react too quickly; respond only after you can define the problem.
  • To avoid polarization, communicate as if you share the problem.
  • Handle some problems in person.
  • Give citizens a chance to partner with you to find solutions.
  • Some problems can't be solved by you alone and some require thought, so don't feel everything has to be solved today.

Also, keep in mind that every organization is judged by its front-line employees, so instill in these people the idea of the nobility of service. We can do this by:

  • Leading others by example
  • Taking time to coach and teach
  • Hiring people who already understand the importance of service
  • Training to help employees realize their potential.

My father once told me, in a thick Irish accent, “Shawnasee darling, in any organization you have people pointing fingers, and those who step up and take the blame and the responsibility.” Always assume the blame so you can assume the responsibility and become a problem-solver. My father wisely said those people are the most valuable ones. By shifting the blame, finger-pointers miss the opportunity to be a hero.

I hope this helps and that you will look for other sources of information to help you on your quest. I will continue mine and remember that finding Mayberry requires that expectations and reality meet. Perhaps my quest for Mayberry is impossible, but the quest is what is important.

— Shawn Lindsey is public works director of Athens, Tenn.

I am a public works professional

By Shawn Lindsey

I wrote the following poem, and I think anyone in this profession can understand it. If you can't, you may want to open your eyes and realize the battles around you and the opportunities to create Mayberry in your sphere of influence, one person at a time.

I am a public servant, and that is a noble profession. I work to serve others, to put them first as a caretaker of what is manmade and natural. I take care of their needs, listen to their sorrows, and find solutions to their problems.

I am a peacemaker. I make angry people content and help others get along, both neighbors and industry. I am a listener and a doer. I offer light to confusion and company to the lonely.

I am a public works professional and I am at every doorstep every day. I am the ground they walk on, the streets, and the sidewalks. I light the skies above at night, take them to work, and bring them home safe. I give them clean water and make their homes and communities livable. I protect what God has created and I pave the roads to the future.

— Dedicated to my father, Lonnie D. Lindsey 1950–2005