As the IT director for Whitman County in Washington state, Chris Nelson is a rare hybrid. Not only is she an expert T2 user, Nelson is equally adept at interacting with the treasurers and assessors in Whitman and surrounding Washington state counties—thanks to diligently mapping their workflows, learning their lingo and understanding their pain points. By facilitating close collaboration between the IT department and the treasurer and assessor offices, Whitman County is able to strengthen the way it manages property valuation and taxation for their jurisdiction.
Whitman County encompasses Washington State University, reflecting the importance of higher education to the region. But although education is a major economic asset, the county is primarily known for its agricultural leadership and status as the top wheat producing county in the United States. With a focus on agriculture, the eastern side of Washington state is made up of small counties that are not likely to have robust IT organizations. This is one of the reasons Whitman County is lucky to have Chris Nelson. An expert Thomson Reuters T2 user, Nelson consistently shares her knowledge and provides training to help both her IT peers and employees in the treasurer and assessor offices.
“What motivates Chris is the idea of providing better service to the treasurer and assessor offices,” says Marshal Rogers, senior manager of software development, who has worked with Chris since 2010. “Chris sees them as her constituents. She’s the kind of IT director who walks though the building and stops in each office at least once a day just to verify there are no issues and check in on folks. From a pure IT perspective, Chris gets involved on a level that not many others do.”
“She’s an IT person who tries to speak the treasurer and assessor language,” explains Karen Bratton, a support specialist who has also worked closely with Chris. “She does a lot of interpreting. We try hard to speak the clients’ language, but if we talk too much programmer language that she thinks may be over their heads, Chris interprets so they can understand the process and any changes.”
Becoming a better partner to assessors and treasurers
Nelson’s reach extends well beyond Whitman County. At the Washington T2 User Conference in July 2017, she created and hosted a T2 Lab training session to teach attendees how to better administer the T2 database and, in turn, become more effective in their jobs while being better partners to the assessor and treasurer offices. Although a server failure thwarted the live lab, Nelson is already working to re-create it for next year’s user conference.
Nelson also hosted a user group session to share the journey map she has created.
“Chris put a lot of effort into developing a journey map that charts the treasurer’s and assessor’s workflows,” Rogers explains. “It’s essentially reveals, ‘Here’s how you interact with each other, and here’s where pain points can develop.’ She knows that by promoting understanding and exposing both sides to one another, everyone benefits.”
Nelson also co-led a presentation with Rogers geared toward IT members. “She said, ‘Here’s what we should be doing as IT to better serve the treasurer and assessor offices.’ She’s now trying to engage them in designing her course work for next year, based on feedback from last year’s session.”
Inspiring better customer support
“We’ll have conversations at user group, and Chris will email afterwards,” says Bratton. “She’ll say, ‘I’ve been thinking about this some more.’ It may not even be about an issue that directly affects her, but she tries to help by offering her expertise and knowledge.”
“She’ll go back to the treasurer or assessor and say, ‘We discussed this at user group. What’s your take?’” Rogers adds. “Outside of user group, she’s a great sounding board for issues we’ve needed to work through with other counties.”
Nelson’s also draws on a wealth of work experience garnered before her days with Whitman County—including other Washington counties. “She’s been the IT director in another county; she served eight years as an active duty officer in the U.S. Marine Corps; and then, by chance and ability, fell into the IT field as her profession,” says Bratton.
While some IT people see data loss and security breach prevention as their main role, Rogers says Nelson is different. “Chris, first and foremost, looks at it from the perspective of ‘How can we get our work done? How do we set up a good relationship with our vendors so we can support our customers well?’”
Thomson Reuters is happy to recognize and thank Nelson for her contributions to the T2 user community in Washington state and beyond. Her efforts are an inspiration to jurisdictions nationwide, and her work serves as a model for collaboration between county IT departments and treasurer and assessor offices.