Language an asset to Dobson

By Andy Winemiller -

DOBSON — One Dobson employee has a special ability often utilized by the town, which prompted a pay bump for her.

The Dobson Board of Commissioners voted unanimously for a change to the town’s personnel ordinance which incorporates a five-percent salary increase for employees who are fluent in other languages which the town finds useful to conduct its business.

As it stands now, Town Manager Josh Smith said Spanish-speaking employees are of great use to all town departments.

There’s only one member of the town’s staff who is fluent in Spanish, Marlene Lopez. Smith said her abilities are utilized on almost a daily basis by the town’s departments. Lopez is a billing clerk for the town.

“She’s really worn out by every single department,” said Smith, before explaining she speaks with Spanish-speaking water and sewer customers, is borrowed by the police department for investigations and also used at the town’s many events to speak with Spanish-speaking residents and visitors.

Police Chief Shawn Meyers said Lopez has played a vital role in many of the investigations performed by his department.

Meyers said interpreters were once hired from a Greensboro-based agency. Each time the need arose for an interpreter, the clock started running from the time that person got in the car until he or she arrived back in Greensboro. The town incurred a $200 to $300 cost every time it used the service.

Lopez has completely replaced the service, and – for obvious reasons – has a quicker response time than an interpreter traveling from Greensboro.

Smith said Lopez is the only person on staff who speaks Spanish fluently. While the raise is an act of appreciation for her abilities, it’s not limited just to Lopez.

“In today’s competitive market, any little thing we can offer would be useful as an incentive,” explained Smith.

Smith said the growing Spanish-speaking population makes anybody who speaks the language an asset to the town. The slight pay bump could be enough to attract additional qualified Spanish-speaking candidates to jobs with the town, including in the police department, where Meyers has had much employee turnover in recent years.

By Andy Winemiller

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

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