In these tough times, Mary Nell Smith clearly is the right person to run the Coastal Workforce Center of the S.C. Employment Security Commission. A profile April 11 reveals a dedicated public sector worker who cares for the folks her agency is helping. A second-generation state employment worker, Smith often works late and on weekends.
She has been with the commission for 25 years and since the economy tanked has seen more work for her employees than ever before - and she expects a lot of them. "I'm constantly challenging them to do their best and come up with ways to do a better job," she says. "It takes the whole group to do the job we've done this past year."
Unemployment in Horry County fell two points for the month of March, to 13.2 percent (15.2 percent in February); the Georgetown County rate was 13.1 percent (14.5 percent in February). The state's 12.2 percent unemployment is the nation's sixth-highest.
Of course, Smith knows the agency isn't perfect, and she listens to plenty of complaints, surely not all of them justified. "I take it very personal because I put everything that's in me into this job, and we're trying to do the best we can, and some days it gets extremely tough with people in your face.
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"It's been tough to listen to criticism from everyone ... when I know what a hard job we do under the circumstances that this economy has been under."