Donna Clay received an early Christmas present when she was notified just before the holiday that she’d been named Columbia County’s Employee of the Year.
Clay, who serves as assistant office supervisor of the Columbia County Water Utility, received the award during the Jan. 3 County Commission meeting, along with a plaque, a paid day off, a check for $250 before taxes and an umbrella.
“It was nice,” she said.
Clay went to work for the Water Utility right after graduation 33 years ago from Harlem High School, starting in the former county offices on Davis Road and moving with the department to the current Evans-to-Locks Road headquarters.
Along the way, she’s seen the department grow from serving just 6,000 customers to its current number of more than 30,000; water meters change from analog to digital; and records switch from paper and pencil to computer.
“The biggest challenge, to me, has been the growth,” Clay said. “Some of these things were quite a challenge.
“We used to have to manually write information in master files, and send that information off to a computer-programming company that made the changes for us,” she said. “I remember having to type up lists of delinquent accounts.”
During those years of change, Clay said, fellow staff members have bonded closely, with most in the office having at least 10 years’ tenure.
“They’re pretty good,” she said. “They get in there and get the job done. We’ve kind of grown to where we’re more like a family.
“We know that we’re here to help each other.”
It’s that helpful attitude that earned Clay her nomination as employee of the month last year from fellow employee Margaret Alligood, who described Clay as “an above and beyond employee who works extremely hard.
“Donna will not rest until she knows the business office is done with all tasks possible by the close of each business day,” Alligood wrote in her nomination, adding that Clay “has a wonderful demeanor... She represents us with great business ethics and values.”
Water Utility Director Billy Clayton agreed, and described Clay as “the most honest person I know.”