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County ODJFS gets state#039;s #039;Team of the Month#039; award

They got a paperweight, a nice framed certificate and one day off work -- with pay.

But more than that, they got recognition from Columbus for a job well done.

The Lawrence County Office of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services staff has been named the state's Team of the Month. State ODJFS officials were in Ironton Tuesday for a congratulatory lunch.

State Deputy Director John Trott said the local office was selected for the honor based on its dramatic turnaround from being the office that never got its job done to an office with a dazzling success rate.

"They're doing more work than ever, with a smaller staff," Trott said.

"This office is highly productive for the workload it has. They've implemented a lot of changes in a short amount of time, and the changes are working."

This wasn't always the case, office manager Nancy Craigmiles said when she nominated her team for the honor.

"The Ironton office had a history of failure," Craigmiles wrote state officials. "Failure to make placement goals, failure to meet time lapse, year after year. Very few customers were placed in jobs and many claimants waited for weeks for their first unemployment check."

At that time, the office had eight full-time customer service representatives, in addition to the manager, supervisor and veterans representative.

Craigmiles said a number of changes have been implemented to combat the deficiencies. First, supervisors assembled a small team that worked well together, and brought in experts to train the team in areas where members needed improvement. Then, innovative changes were made to better serve the needs of local customers. The changes have resulted in increased job performance.

The local team now regularly meets or exceeds not only its own goals, but state and federal ones as well.

From 1993 to 1999, the average number of persons placed in employment at the local office was 257 per year. That figure zoomed to 1,035 placements 2001, in spite of repeated hits to the Lawrence County economy and the fact that Ironton processes three times the number of labor-intensive combined wage claims (claims involving wages from more than one state) than any other office.

"We experimented 'til we found processes that worked best," Craigmiles said of the turnaround.

She also credited the new success to a small group of people who have an all-for-one attitude.

"I'm proud of them," Craigmiles said. "I'm proud of how well they work together."

The camaraderie was not lost on Trott, who marveled that some are state employees, some are on the county payroll, and all work well together. In some offices, the division of government levels creates turf wars that Trott said he did not find here.

Two team members have also received national recognition for their work. Jewell Hackworth, Workforce Investment Act director, has been awarded U.S. Congressional recognition for her service to clients.

Ted Riedel has been certified by the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals for his service. Teresa Moore/The Ironton Tribune