While City Hall rings with debate and grand plans, count on city clerks to quietly get the work of the People done.
This month, LaMATS recognizes the members and leadership of the Louisiana Municipal Clerks Association (LMCA) and acknowledges their vital role in local government.
Founded in 1955, the LMCA provides its members the tools and education they need to support our elected local leaders and properly steward public funds as their communities grow. In fact, professional city clerks provide an essential continuity of good governance that keeps our American democratic traditions alive at the local level.
For two decades, LaMATS services have been guided and improved by city clerks, often the most knowledgeable of their hometowns’ needs and the value of benefits we provide. Over the years, we’ve been blessed with strong partners within the LMCA. As the association again passes the torch of leadership, we wanted to highlight these invaluable relationships by hearing directly from past, present and future LMCA leaders who kindly offered a few minutes of their time at the 2017 Clerks’ Institute in Baton Rouge.
Clerk of Westlake for the last 13 of her 18 years with the city, Andrea Mahfouz just completed a two-year term as President of the LMCA. Mahfouz was a vocal supporter of LaMATS during her term, which coincided with the launch of an ambitious suite of new LaMATS services. Already enrolled with Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) collection, Westlake has begun using the Municipal Debt Recovery (MDR) service and also had, according to Mahfouz, a “fantastic” experience procuring municipal golfing equipment through LaMATS online procurement network.
Insurance premium taxes were a struggle before LaMATS, said Mahfouz. “We had no idea who was selling insurance. You only have the honor system.” After signing up with IPT, Westlake’s insurance tax collection “started coming in 20 or 30 percent higher than when we did it ourselves.” Westlake also switched to the LaMATS MDR program, which Mahfouz says the city uses for collecting utility payments and finds both more convenient and less expensive than their previous provider.
Mahfouz feels LaMATS has been a great value, praising especially our support of the LMCA through Institute scholarships, which will grow this year to twenty, thanks to new LaMATS partnerships. Said Mahfouz, “LaMATS makes our jobs easier. I don’t understand anybody who doesn’t take the opportunity to look at what LaMATS has to offer!”
In the Village of Grand Cane (population 242), newly elected LMCA President Ann-Marie Eaves wears many hats. Small town clerks do a lot, says Eaves, which is why LaMATS services are so important to her and her community.
Grand Cane uses LaMATS for IPT and Occupational License Tax (OLT) collection, and is now ready for LaMATS partner Millage Management, LLC, to take over that aspect of the village’s operations as well.
As the incoming President of the LMCA, Eaves said she looks forward to meeting mayors she doesn’t already know at upcoming LMA and LMCA events. It can be intimidating as a new clerk with so much to learn and important regulations to follow, she said. Eaves encourages new members with questions to contact LaMATS and to speak with veteran clerks about how our benefit programs work.
“The Clerks Institute is wonderful,” said Eaves. “You learn a lot in the classroom, but you learn more from the other clerks and the situations they face.”
Eaves said the “top two things to know” about LaMATS are that the size of your municipality doesn’t reduce its benefit, and that the camaraderie LaMATS and the Clerks Institute provide is a valuable asset for everyone.
Mary Vice of Vinton (pop. 3,300) is a veteran clerk and a Past President of the LMCA. Vice extolled the value of the Clerks Institute, which she has attended for 19 years: “Networking is definitely a big piece of how I learned and matured as a clerk,” she said.
Vice notes that the association has started a mentoring program to help newer members, to whom she always recommends giving LaMATS programs a critical review. “My advice to them is to look into how LaMATS can benefit their town.”
Vinton uses LaMATS for both IPT and OLT and also for purchasing help. Vice says Vinton’s experience with LaMATS procurement assistance was “excellent,” and that the town has enjoyed an 8% increase in revenue after signing up with the IPT program. But Vice cites LaMATS technical support and advice as her favorite feature: LaMATS staff “are just so helpful and they lead me in the right direction,” she said. “I know when I call, they will give me correct information.”
Vice advises clerks to know that mayors and councils are always looking for new ways to operate more efficiently and to bring in new revenue. LaMATS can help do that, she noted, which not only improves operations but can also improve clerks’ working relationships with elected leaders. “It’s just a win-win!”
To our unending gratitude, Gay Nell Pepper has lent the wisdom of her nearly 30 years as City Clerk of Farmerville to LaMATS through her service on our Board of Directors.
Pepper says she has never missed a Clerks Institute. Why? “You generally learn more from the other clerks than from the people making the presentations,” she quipped. Networking with peers is one of the biggest upsides to the event. Sometimes, said Pepper, when you have a question you can just call the clerk who sat next to you at the last Institute.
The Town of Farmerville (pop. 3,808) currently participates in IPT (says Pepper: “It saves you time and earns you more money. It’s a no brainer,”) and is considering joining the MDR service as well. One of the special benefits of LaMATS, she says, is how the organization works to keep clerks up to date with important regulations and changes to law.
“If it weren’t for LMA, LaMATS, and the LMCA, we wouldn’t ever know what was going on. That’s a full-time job!”
As dedicated city clerks, Pepper, Vice, Eaves and Mahfouz all know that great public service is no accident: The right team, tools and know-how are essential to success. LaMATS salutes each of the hardworking members of the LMCA—and every municipal staffer—for their support and improvement of our work on behalf of Louisiana’s local governments.