Thursday, June 21, 2018
News Roundup

Face of Hernando County government says customer service, good hires were keys to success

BROOKSVILLE — As she prepares to retire this month, there are several ways Brenda Frazier, the community relations coordinator for Hernando County government, can measure her decades of public service.

She can use the yardstick of top county officials with whom she has worked: 15 county administrators and interim county administrators, plus about 40 commissioners — some of whom she described as real characters.

She can measure based on good people she hired for key positions, the ongoing task of improving customer service and the effort to strive for a total quality management approach to her work.

But Frazier, 58, chooses instead to leave as her legacy the dozens of positive relationships she built working side by side with scores of dedicated co-workers and community partners over the years.

"I can sincerely say that it has been an honor and a privilege to have had such a long career with Hernando County government,'' she said. "I have enjoyed the many projects and programs I have worked on, but most of all I have enjoyed the relationships I have established.''

The public knows Frazier as the face and voice of county government. She snaps and posts pictures of resolutions that are presented by the County Commission. She has appeared on more than 400 programs on the Hernando County Government Broadcasting television station, educating the community about county department operations, community history and current issues.

When Frazier started her career 37 years ago, she was strictly behind the scenes.

She grew up in a rural Indiana community sandwiched between Muncie and Fort Wayne. She and her husband, Mark, both Ball State University graduates, tired of the cold weather and decided to head somewhere sunny.

Frazier's grandparents lived in St. Petersburg, so she knew the area. The other choice was California, but that seemed too far away and foreign, she said.

Her husband was offered a job by Dolores Parrott at what was then known as Brooksville Junior High School, which later moved and was renamed Parrott Middle School. He will retire from his technology teaching position at Parrott at the end of the school year.

Frazier worked for a while for an attorney in New Port Richey. But when the couple moved from Pasco County to Brooksville several months after coming to Florida, she applied for temporary work and ended up with a full-time job as a deputy clerk with the clerk of the Circuit Court.

As Hernando County grew, so did the need for county services, and over the years Frazier worked her way through various positions. At one time, she took the minutes at County Commission meetings. Later, she became the administrative assistant to the county administrator.

Her job in community relations started about 15 years ago.

"I've done a lot of different things,'' she said.

With the rise of technology, Frazier also has seen big changes in the way jobs are performed. She remembers having to type minutes from public meetings on a typewriter using carbon paper. She recalls the thrill of getting her first word processor.

There were no TV broadcasts of meetings during her early years with the county. The only people who witnessed what happened were those in the audience. Then there was basic filming and audio taping, still a far cry from today's live television coverage and streaming of video on computers.

To Frazier, picking the right person to run Government Broadcasting was one her two biggest accomplishments. And no one is more passionate about his job, she says, than Rick Foti.

The other hire she points to was a student intern from Saint Leo University who worked on a project for the county administrator years ago. That intern went on to become the county's human resources director and then the assistant administrator.

She is now Brooksville City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha.

The hardest part of her job, Frazier said, has been "communicating to people when it was something that was not positive, communicating that the county really does care. We understand there is a problem. We're not being cavalier.''

Frazier said she knows, from her view on the inside, that county employees care and work hard. That has made the last few years difficult, she said, as employees have been the subject of public criticism — at a time when many also feared they could lose their jobs because of budget cuts.

"It was a very difficult time,'' she said. "But it's like every other challenge that you face — you just keep doing your job.''

Her husband helped her keep things in perspective, she said, and so did her faith.

"You have to try not to dwell on the negative, keep doing what you need to do and leave it in God's hands,'' Frazier said. "I knew he would get me through it.''

She doesn't know what she will do on her first day of freedom. She does know that next month she will attend the courthouse centennial celebration that she helped to plan and then handed off to other county employees. Her office is ringed by piles of submissions for the event's art display, depicting various aspects of the historic structure.

In a few months, she said, she will settle on a plan for retirement that likely will include volunteer work in the community, visiting her children and grandchildren, and traveling.

As for her work with the county, Frazier said she wanted to go out on a high note and that the time was right.

"I really did love this job,'' she said with a sad smile. "I'm quitting while I'm still having fun.''

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

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