Accepting the Call

Accepting the Call

Colbians choose government as the best route to public service

By Douglas Rooks '76 | Photos by Fred Field


 
There are some things government seems best able to do—including serving the most vulnerable people in our society.
Clougher is proud of the way her field has developed over the years since she left Colby. "Battered child syndrome was a new diagnosis back then, something people hadn't yet heard of,— she said. "The field has really grown up and become much more refined and analytical. We do a better job now and hold people more accountable.—

That's what Sandy Reed Clougher's generation felt. Clougher '69 is a district director for the Family Services Division of Vermont Social Services, handling child abuse and neglect cases and arranging foster care placements. While it's demanding work, she feels her state has been better than some others in adequately funding social services and preventing excessive caseloads—and employee burnout. Vermont, in particular, she said, seems to have manageable problems, without the kind of hopelessness bred in some inner-city environments.

Clougher is proud of the way her field has developed over the years since she left Colby. "Battered child syndrome was a new diagnosis back then, something people hadn't yet heard of,— she said. "The field has really grown up and become much more refined and analytical. We do a better job now and hold people more accountable.—

And government can be held accountable as well, says Lizzie Ivry Cooper '98.

Cooper, who worked on Capitol Hill and earned a master's degree, went to work at the New York City Department of Education, which was targeted for major changes under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. She is now at the city's Department of Transportation, where she is deputy director of intergovernmental affairs, keeping tabs on legislation at the city, state, and federal level. Although the city doesn't run the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) bus and subway system, she gets involved in just about everything else. Contrary to jaded public expectations, she said, municipal government "really does work.—

And it works very hard. Just ask Christian Laycock '97, a homicide detective for the Marietta (Ga.) Police Department. Laycock became a reserve officer for a local police department during his senior year at Colby and was struck by the profound effect police officers had on people's lives. When he returned home to Georgia, he found he could do police work without an advanced degree, and after five years on uniform patrol he found himself working murder cases.

He doesn't have much time for the popular CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) shows, where murders are solved in under an hour. "Do you know how long it takes to get a DNA test?— Laycock asked. "Six months, and that's for homicides.—

Homicides are the most challenging for detectives, and Laycock says they're not for everyone. "I like it because it allows me to use my brain, the skills I developed.— But the work also involves horrendous crimes that can shake even the most seasoned officers. Laycock has learned, time and again, how one fight or even an argument "can change everything in the blink of an eye.—

Marietta averages eight murders a year, and each has a lead detective assigned. High-tech television dramas to the contrary, Laycock said, finding witnesses and using old-fashioned shoe-leather techniques solve most crimes. He doesn't have much time for the popular CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) shows, where murders are solved in under an hour. "Do you know how long it takes to get a DNA test?— Laycock asked. "Six months, and that's for homicides.—

Laycock started law school at Georgia State University last year and may go to work "across the street— at the courthouse. "It's a logical progression,— he said, in his work to bring justice for the worst crimes human beings can commit.

Not every government job involves high drama or big-city scale. Barbara Avery '65 has found satisfaction working for the town of Woodstock, N.H. After teaching in Vermont and working in New York, she returned to her native Concord, N.H., and, in 1980, moved to Woodstock in the White Mountains. She was part-time librarian of the Moosilauke Public Library, then became full-time deputy town clerk, and in 2002 moved up to town clerk.

Avery enjoys the variety of tasks in a small town office: issuing marriage licenses, checking tax records, even helping visitors trace their genealogy. "It's a great frustration for people to discover you cannot solve their problem or right a perceived wrong,— she said. "But it's satisfying to live in a community small enough that people realize they have to consider everyone's rights even if they don't like it.—

 
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