Mark Goodner sat down with Pat Riffel to discuss the Texas Court Clerks Association (TCCA).
MG: Pat, first of all let me say congratulations again for being named the TMCA Outstanding Clerk of the Year at the recent TMCA Annual Meeting. I know you don’t want me to mention that, but I am so happy you were recognized. You deserve it! You have always been very involved in TCCA, TMCEC, and Clerk Certification Program. Recently, on this blog, I talked to Jennifer Bozorgnia about her certification process, how it helped her, how it helps the clerks she supervises, and what advice she would give to clerks beginning the process. I am interested in your thoughts on all of those topics, so thanks for taking the time to discuss that with me.
PR: Thank you so much for the kind words—it was truly an honor to be recognized by this group of judges, prosecutors, and clerks! As I mentioned at that meeting—I don’t do any of what I do on my own—”it takes a village”, “no man’s an island”, etc. And my Island/Village is the people from TCCA and TMCEC!
MG: TCCA (and TMCEC) are not just about certification. What would you tell clerks about getting involved in TCCA chapters—even if they might not be interested in certification?
PR: Even if certification is not on your radar (but we might be able to convince you,) TCCA is an invaluable tool. The benefits are many and-long standing. TCCA is a networking jewel. My first TCCA meeting was in 2003, and I still rely on the people I met in Austin that week! The theme was something about Orchids—which made absolutely no sense to me—and I only went because I was fairly new to the field and just needed to know what was going on!!! If you know me at all—you realize I MUST be in the know! I believed then, and still believe, that you can’t be proficient in a system you don’t understand—and to understand, you need to learn and involve yourself.
MG: What would you say is the most significant benefit of someone getting involved in TCCA?
PR: TCCA’s most valuable asset is its people—the networking, support, advice, and direction offered freely and happily by other clerks has been an amazing experience. I have worked in three very distinct professional fields, and TCCA is by far-the most welcoming and helpful. There is no competition—we aren’t there to best each other—but to truly help one another. TCCA offers a mentoring program for New Clerks and for those working on Level 3—just taking the networking into a more formal realm.
TCCA offers a myriad of educational opportunities. The best piece of advice I ever got was in High School when a teacher advised me to “never pass up an educational opportunity if it’s handed to you!”
This was when I was struggling with the possibility of attending college as the first in my family to do so! I took the opportunity and have lived by that philosophy ever since. There are so many free opportunities offered by TCCA, formally, or through the network.
Also—TCCA will help you communicate with your city administration. We have done salary surveys, as well as justification for certification position papers that help you aid your city in understanding your worth.
MG: You have been such an influential voice in TCCA. I know that many TCCA members and officers may be looking to transition to retirement in the not-too-distant future. What can you tell us about the future of TCCA? Do you envision changes?
PR: Currently, one of the main focuses of the TCCA board and Education Committee has been the need for succession planning. We have worked too hard and too long to give this profession the status it has reached. We would be amiss to believe that others can’t keep it going—we just need to find those others—and we are on a quest to do so—WE NEED YOU!
TCCA is looking at a restructure of the organization into regions. We envision the current chapters becoming regions. They would not need to have their own board, would not need to be concerned with filling offices, but would still hold regional meetings, regional education, etc. It is a clearer way to connect us all together.
Further, though you know I am not always a fan—virtual education will forever have a place in our education system. It has been a really good fit for study sessions and for general informational sessions. I envision a hybrid system of educational delivery.
MG: If someone is involved—or even just considering getting involved—in TCCA, what would you tell them? How could they get involved? And how could they take on a leadership role, if they wish to do so?
If you want to get involved LET US KNOW!
I would first suggest you attend meetings, conference, virtual education etc. Put yourself out there-talk to people about the association. Almost all of us attend TMCEC regionals or special classes. There are always TCCA people there, either at a table or in the room. Talk to them! We are a chatty group and would love to visit with you.
We can help you explore where your skill set fits. The time required depends on the committee and role you take, but we have something to fit your needs. As mentioned earlier: we need fresh, young faces willing to learn and grow as we plan for succession and further success of the organization.
MG: Thank you so much Pat. Those looking for more information can find it on the clerk certification page of the TMCEC website. The TCCA website is an abundant source of information, as well.