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‘Love what you do, but be proud of it, too’

Jamie Batts to retire as Wilson city clerk

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As the Wilson city clerk, Jamie Batts is the keeper of the city’s seal, but at 5 p.m. on Friday, the 58-year-old woman will pass that duty on to someone new.

“It has been a really interesting job, and I’ve loved it,” Batts said. “I’ve never minded coming to work. How many people can say that?”

Batts was born in Wilson and lived here until second grade when her family moved to Raleigh. Eventually she moved to Micro and lived there until she got married and moved to Elm City in 1984. With an associate degree in business, Batts held a variety of jobs before landing with the city in 1989.

“I’ve been working for a long time. I started out barning tobacco and pumping gas at a full-service station for my father. When I graduated, I worked for a period at a roofing company,” she said, laughing at her colorful past. “Then I worked for DFI as an administrative assistant when they were working on an ethanol plant that never got built.”

She was hired as an administrative assistant in personnel for the city before getting promoted to the deputy city manager’s assistant. She said she worked on a variety of things in that role, including streetscapes in downtown, the grand opening of the Wilson Corporate Park before any buildings were there, a transportation improvement plan, the U.S. 264 bypass and the construction of the dam at Buckhorn Reservoir.

“I worked on Buckhorn for 20 years, and to see all those obstacles overcome to make that happen was truly one of the best things that has ever been done. We didn’t have a good water supply, so getting that ensured our future for the next 100 years plus,” she said. “Just seeing that happen, seeing downtown now, seeing what Greenlight has done and the corporate park develop makes me proud to have worked here.

“My parents always said, ‘Love what you do, but be proud of it, too,’ and I’ve had that with the city.”

Another highlight that made her proud of her work was in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd when so many employees jumped up to help others, even if doing so didn’t align with their normal job responsibilities. In addition to handling paperwork and housing for out-of-town crews, Batts was responsible for feeding the employees, and one day that meant wading through the West Nash Red & White with a flashlight to retrieve sandwich supplies for 1,000 people.

“Some people just don’t have a clue about all the city does, but when we have disasters, that is when the city shines,” she said. “The departments all worked together, and there was such camaraderie. I still think about the people now I worked with during the hurricane. We had dirty hair and we hadn’t slept, but we worked together and that is when the city is at its best.”

In 2010, Batts stepped into the role of city clerk after Mayor Bruce Rose’s wife retired. With legal obligations to record the city’s history, Batts shouldered plenty of responsibility.

“I couldn’t really schedule any off-time for like probably three weeks of the month,” she said. “People don’t realize it, but the city clerk signs plats for developers, and planning brings me stuff that I have to stamp. If my vacation is stopping contractors from working, I’m costing them money, so I’ve got to be here.”

A few years back, the city manager’s executive assistant also became the assistant city clerk, and now that woman, Tonya West, will step into the role full-time.

“I have an aging mother and we realized that if something happens and I have to leave immediately, we needed a backup plan,” Batts recalled. “You always have to have a backup plan, especially in case of something like that.

“I didn’t want to leave the city hanging. That was the bottom line.”

That mentality has been a cornerstone to Batts’ responsibilities and one she made sure to pass on to West during the past year of training.

“I’m from that era that took shorthand, so most of the time, I’m doing meeting minutes from my notes, but I have a recorder for help and I have an extra recorder going. Plus I know the city films the meetings, so I can transcribe from that if the recorders fail,” Batts said with a laugh. “There are many backups. I’m the queen of backups. Everybody laughs, but they stop when they realize my recorders worked and theirs didn’t.”

In appreciation for Batts’ long hours and hard work, the Wilson City Council declared Dec. 13 “Jamie Batts Day” in Wilson during its meeting that day, noting her ability to bring “her eye for details to every aspect of her job.” She said the proclamation and being asked to tap the gavel to close the meeting brought a smile to her face and her heart.

Now that the days of transcribing are nearly behind her, she said she’s eager to spend time fishing with her retired husband, Mike, their 31-year-old son and his wife along with her 82-year-old mother who still lives in Micro.

“I’ve got plenty to do. I was blessed with wonderful parents, and I’d like to return the favor. My dad died in 2000 and my mom needs me, so we’re going to have some fun,” she said. “I was probably as close to my father as anyone could be, and when he died, a lot of people were surprised I didn’t fall apart, but I left it all said. That is how I live my life.

“I don’t know if it is good or bad, but if I love you, you’re going to know it.”

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