Jean Spratlin: Committed to government for almost four decadesPosted: March 26, 2013
“Most people don’t even think about local government ‘till something comes up and they need something done.”
In her office in City Hall, Jean Spratlin, the Athens-Clarke County Clerk of Commission talks about her job and the importance of local government to herself and to the people of Athens. With white hair and glasses, Spratlin just began her 39th year as a civil servant in local government, and she does not plan on retiring any time soon.
“Good Lord willing, I’ll be having my 40th Anniversary with the Athens-Clarke County government next year,” Spratlin said with a twinkle in her eye. For Spratlin, government is not only a job; it is her passion, and as she described it, it began as a challenge.
“I had never worked in local government before, didn’t know that much about local government, so I thought it sounded interesting,” said Spratlin in a vibrant southern drawl. Back then she had no way of knowing that in 39 years she would be in the same office, doing what she loved.
She began working for Athens-Clarke County in 1974, serving as a clerk under the clerk treasurer, but since that was almost four decades ago, she cannot quite recall what her specific title was. From there she moved up to deputy clerk, and then on to her current title.
“This has been a continuous job,” said Spratlin, “I have not worked anywhere else since I started.”
As the clerk of commission, her job is to direct the activities that lead to decision-making for the county commission. Essentially, she helps the government of Athens communicate and understand one another in order to govern more effectively. She also has a hand in making sure that all of the information gathered by the commission, all of their documents, and videos of the meetings are available to the citizens of Athens.
“I’m not sure there’s any such thing as ‘a normal day’ around here,” Spratlin said with a chuckle. She explained that any day could bring any sort of issue that she would need to deal with, and often no two days are the same. Of the few things that her office deals with daily, helping the public and the department of directors to find information from years past are more normal. Her office is also in charge of publishing press releases that detail any city and county code and law changes, and making sure that the public is aware of what the county commission is doing.
As the official record keeper for the Athens-Clarke County government, Spratlin’s office preforms a vital duty to the public and the government, both now and in the future.
“Twenty, 30 years from now when someone comes and looks something up, are they going to know what was done?” said Spratlin. “So, when I’m gone, whoever comes after me, or whoever is the mayor or manager or whoever, could come in and find that information without difficulty.”
When speaking with Spratlin, it is easy to see that she is fascinated by government. While she thinks that people do not appreciate the local government enough for what it does, she enjoys getting other people excited about government.
“Everything is of interest to me,” said Spratlin, “I can’t decide which item is more important than the other.” She stressed that remaining neutral in regard to the issues she deals with is a large part of her duty, and one that she takes seriously. She explained that there is a balance to working in her office, in order to properly allow the commission to understand and vote on every aspect of an issue, she has to be able to explain every aspect. “If it is important to a commissioner, it is important to me.”
Spratlin has had health problems that cause her to miss some work. But she dismisses any questions about her ability to carry out her duties. She conceded that health issues can cause problems when it comes to the workplace, but was sure to make it clear that she is committed to local government and the citizens of Athens-Clarke County.
“It’s just a matter of getting down here and getting mind over matter, I guess.”