On a fast track: New Morgan license commissioner emphasizes customer service for busy office
By Michael Wetzel
For the Enquirer
Kate Terry, appointed this month to serve as Morgan County license commissioner for the five years remaining in retired commissioner Sharon Maxwell’s term, said she’s been amazed at how busy her new office is.
“It’s like Black Friday in the office every day,” she said. “The ladies are constantly working. There’s never a moment to spare. The public is always here.
“That’s probably been the biggest wow factor to me,” she added. “Even though I have seen the line outside of the office, being on this side now, the ladies keep their noses to the grindstone, and they knock it out. It’s so impressive to see the speed and the level at which they work.”
Terry was previously Morgan County elections director and chief clerk in the probate court, across the hall from the license office, and she has been involved in the election process at the courthouse since 2003. Gov. Kay Ivey Jan. 7 appointed her to fill the license commissioner position after Maxwell retired Dec. 31.
Terry, 37, said one of her first tasks will be getting an understanding of the duties of the 18 workers she oversees.
“I want to understand all of the jobs to be an effective leader,” Terry said. “I want to learn the day-to-day tasks of what the ladies do. I want each of them to train me to do what they do. If we have a staff shortage, or they
need help on the last day of the month, I can step into that role. I want to work alongside them.
“I feel I can lead better that way, and they understand what my purpose is and know I have their back, too.”
She said she also needs to communicate with the county commission and other department heads to learn their expectations.
She said she also hopes to install kiosks that can be used for some transactions now handled by her staff.
“If someone comes here to do a renewal or simple changeover, the kiosk can offer customers that instead of them having to wait in line. Our vendor company we work with has that option,” Terry said. “But it’s important we still have face-to-face interaction with true customer service.”
A 2002 graduate of Austin High School, Terry is on track to graduate from Strayer University in the spring with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in management. She is married to Jonathan Terry, and they have a son, Greyson, 4.
She said she hopes to improve customer service at the license office.
“(Department of Motor Vehicle) offices have such a bad reputation across the board, regardless where you go,” she noted. “I want to reinvent that reputation for at least Morgan County.”
She said lines are long now because some staffers are out with COVID-19.
She said county license commission customers will soon benefit from new offices in Hartselle and Lacey’s Spring with additional employee work stations. “That will be a great resource to lighten the load at the courthouse.”
Commission Chairman Ray Long said the two new satellite offices could be open sometime in February.
The license commissioner position pays $87,986.76.
Terry said she had previously considered running for public office one day, and the license commissioner opening accelerated that plan. She intends to seek election as license commissioner when her appointed term is up.
“I felt it was a good opportunity to apply to serve as commissioner to see if I could use the knowledge I had in the probate office in the office across the hall,” she said.
“I would not have sought this position if I didn’t want to do it long term,” she added. “t would have been a waste of resources for Morgan County to put somebody in this position to leave in five years.”
Long called Terry “a good fit” for the position.
“She has always been very good to work with,” he said. “She has a servant’s heart. I’m proud of her for the governor’s appointment.”
Meanwhile, Terry’s former boss, Probate Judge Greg Cain, said she will be missed, and he might still lean on her for advice.
“I’ll keep her on my speed dial,” he said. “She did an awesome job for us, and Gov. Ivey made a fantastic choice when she appointed Kate to fill Sharon’s term. She’ll serve the public well.”
Terry said she’s excited at the opportunity.
“It wasn’t my original path, but God has a way of opening doors we didn’t know we wanted to walk through,” she said. “I feel so blessed to be here.”