Young Government Leaders (YGL) and GovLoop present the NextGen Public Service Awards for superior public service and achievement. The 5th Annual NextGen Public Service Awards will be given at the 2015 NextGen Award’s Ceremony, which will kick of the NextGen Training Summit on July 20th and 21st in Washington, DC. This year we have 30 finalists – the NextGen 30. Over the next month we will introduce you to our finalists through this blog series.
Meet the finalist:
Who: Sarah Thokey, Clerical Manager, Probation and Pretrial Services, Texas Northern
Achievement: NextGen Public Service Finalist, Silent Hero Category
“Sarah has committed her time and energy to public service for the last 23 years. She thrives on making our district and our system better. Public servants have taken a lot of criticism in recent years and, despite this, it is great to have people like Sarah on our team who continue to do what is right because it’s the right thing to do. Sarah uses her innovation and expertise to stay ahead of the game by keeping in tune with current trends using technology to better serve our staff, our courts, and our communities. It’s refreshing to have such a tenured employee continue to have that spark for improvement, learning, and teaching others along the way to improve our system again and again.”
-Chief Misty Westerndoors, nominator of Thokey for NextGen Silent Hero Award.
The silent hero tends to do a ton of great work. Most of the time, however, she is not always the most vocal, nor does she receive much of the spotlight. One silent hero who should not be overlooked is Sarah Thokey, Clerical Manager of Probation and Pretrial Services at Texas Northern. Thokey entered federal public service in 1992 with the US Bankruptcy Clerk’s Office. By 1994, she began her career with probation, which led to her current role.
Now, Thokey holds the responsibility of overseeing operations of the clerical support staff, whether it’s coordinating training or performance evaluation. “I get energized when trying to figure out a solution for various problems or issues,” she said. “That is just an area of strength for me as well as organizing and coordinating the work of the clerical support staff.”
Thokey has a strong belief in the connection between organizational success and the unique strengths and qualities of individuals. She has a collaborative spirit and lives by the motto that hard work pays off.
The Rest Assured Program
Speaking of hard work, Thokey was instrumental in setting up an important program at Texas Northern that helps victims of crime. The Rest Assured Program is a web-based program designed to work collaboratively with the Clerk’s Office in Texas Northern, the Clerk Agency, and the US Attorney’s Office. The victim information starts with the US Attorney’s Office. Once a perpetrator is convicted, the Probation Office has statutory responsibilities to notify the victims(s) of the case status.
“We gather information as far as victim loss amount as well as addresses so that we can send notifications to the victim,” Thokey explained. “We then include that information in a presented report that we provide to the court. This provides information to the judge to assist in determining the sentencing for the perpetrator. "
Prior to the development of the program, the US Attorney’s office manually entered victim information into their victim notification system. The Clerical Office at Texas Northern also manually entered probation information. The court would then manually enter all the information.
“We had all these duplicate entries taking place, which was not a good use of human resources. And with manual entry, there’s always room for error,” Thokey said. “The Rest Assured Program was developed to be the nucleus of information between all entities.”
The program has been recognized nationally for its utility in the probation and pretrial court systems. However, it did not come without its challenges. Some surrounding districts are still in the process of adopting the program. “Just the concept of change can create challenges. My goal is to present the program to them in a way that assures them that the stress or challenges of change are definitely worth the effort,” Thokey said.
“We have really been forced to do more with less. I don’t necessarily see that as a negative because it challenges us to look at the processes we have in place and identify: Are we doing this because it’s a need or are we doing this because it’s the way we’ve done it the past twenty years?” Thokey said. “We have the ability to take advantage of a really good program here.”
Thokey is always ready to rise to the occasion when it comes to challenges in public service. “I think it can be frustrating at times when you are working in a government agency, because there are so many negative thoughts as far as government is concerned,” she said. “Perhaps some of them are justified, but I think that we each have a responsibility in our positions to make sure that those tax dollars paying for our salaries are wisely used.”
As part of her advice to other govies, Thokey emphasizes collaboration. “I think the biggest thing I learned over the years is there’s a lack of collaborative effort, which is usually because that’s the way it’s always be been done or someone doesn’t feel like giving in,” she said.
Thokey’s ultimate goal is to be remembered for having a positive impact on others. As to why she’s a public servant, “I’m given the opportunity to serve the courts and the community and make a difference,” she said. I think it’s safe to say she’s achieved her goal of positive impact.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Joe Gratz