By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Athens City Councilman Joseph Cannon told me that he was encouraged by family members, friends, and constituents to run for the job of heading up our county’s license commission. “I enjoy public service,” he said and added, “I represent a generation that needs to step up, and I have and will continue to lead by example.” Joseph went on to tell me that working full time in the private sector along with his duties on the city council have been a welcomed sacrifice for him and his family. While the license commission position has more predictable hours and is not open on weekends, he still expects to bring that same dedication to the position, even noting that he will be “the first one there, and the last one to leave each day.”
One of the things that has made Joseph’s job as city councilman both a joy and a challenge is that wherever he goes, whether it’s to cities in Alabama or other states, or even on vacation, his “head is on a swivel,” continually observing how everything is done in other cities – from sidewalks to roads to lighting to signage. He is always wanting to “see how they do it” and then strategize as to how Athens might do it even better.
If elected, that same commitment is something Joseph will bring to the office every day. We talked for a while about a recurring theme in our area: “How do we grow well, prepare for the future, and not lose our ‘Athens-ness’?” As a systems guy who really enjoys technology and how it can make life better, one of the things he would like to see is an app that could be accessed by one’s smartphone and would give an indication of how long the wait is in line at the license office. “We have to be in a constant search for how to negate the bottleneck,” he said. Because the office is particularly vulnerable to the effects of fast population growth in the area, staying ahead of the need is of paramount importance.
If the app were to be developed, it would not only indicate how long the wait time is, but have a tab of frequently asked questions, be able to send alerts, and more. It would link to a kiosk, which would handle some of the more automated services offered by the license office. “The kiosk would be the ‘brain’ of the app,” he said. It is most important that any program upgrades be cost effective, not to mention work well. At this point, however, Joseph is not completely convinced that opening up license commission satellite offices would meet that criteria. But, he’s open to being sold on the idea, and says that one day it may just be what’s needed. He painted a number of possible challenging scenarios with a satellite approach, such as staffing when people are sick and not short-staffing at the main office, determining whether or not satellite office hours be the same as the central office, and handling long lines at the satellite offices. “This is a department in our county that can be an example of how a public service department can run well,” Joseph said. Because its scope is customer service, Joseph said that if elected he wants to make sure that he continues to build upon an excellent foundation which results in running the office excellently, and balances efficiency with the “human touch.”
I asked Joseph how he would handle working as the only guy in an all-female office surrounded by women who have been “at it,” that is, “running” the license office for years. He laughed as he reminded me that he was in management for many years at Osborne’s Jeweler’s, and he was responsible for an all-female staff there, too. “We became like family, and it was no problem,” he said. He also made it clear that he wants to be able to step into any slot in the office at any point in order to do any job needed, and do it well. “My plan is to be working right there with them whenever they need me,” Joseph said.
I also asked Joseph why he should be the one to get my vote, and here’s what he said: “First of all, I have worked hard to get a good education. I put myself through college at Athens State.” Joseph has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management, and has worked for several years as a procurement, materials and logistics analyst. “My time in management at Osborne’s, as an analyst in the private sector, and city councilman has prepared me for the job,” he added. Joseph simply wants to hand this county off to future leaders better than how he found it. Last of all, “Work ethic,” he said. “Just like with my job, my family, and city council, I will put everything into it, from sunup to sundown,” he concluded. If these qualities are what you are looking for in a license commissioner, then Joseph Cannon would appreciate your vote on June 5.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner