By RACHAEL LONG / Photos by Rachael Long
*Editor’s note: Both interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.
The City of Brentwood is often lauded for its services to residents and its careful planning. But those things could not happen without the individuals whose job it is to keep the day-to-day operations running smoothly.
For a city with more than 40,000 residents, the administrative professionals who answer the phone all day are often as busy as it gets. If you called the City of Brentwood right now, here’s a look at two of the women you might just find on the other end.
Brittany Chaudhari — City Hall, Receptionist
Brentwood Home Page: Tell me a little bit about yourself, your career and how you ended up working for the City of Brentwood?
Chaudhari: “So, I started working for Brentwood about a year and a half ago. My background is Public Relations, and I was a stay-at-home mom for several years, and there was a part-time PR job over at the library, so I started off doing that and loved it. There’s a great group over there. I was ready to switch into something full time, but what I love about this [job] is there’s no take home work. Everything’s here, [and] these days that’s hard to find. I have two kids, so it allows me to go home and be mom.”
BHP: Where are you originally from?
Chaudhari: “I would say Chattanooga area. I was in north Georgia for a while and moved to Tennessee when I was 12, but it was always right around the Chattanooga area. Tennessee’s home.
BHP: What brought you to [live in] Franklin?
Chaudhari: Well, I was in St. Louis first for a while. I love [the Kirkwood] area, I still talk about it because you could live right there and walk to all the different shops and restaurants. I would go [to Kaldi’s Coffee] and I would take my son in the stroller and we would sit there and have lunch, and it was the sweetest. That’s kind of what I love about the Cool Springs area; it’s still close enough to things where if you wanted to walk, you could.”
BHP: Tell me a little bit about your family life?
Chaudhari: “I have two sons, Jayden, 11, and Jackson, 9. They go to school in Brentwood, because we’re right on the Franklin-Brentwood line, so they’re zoned for Brentwood schools. They’re super involved in Brentwood sports, like baseball and basketball, so that’s been a good way to get to know people since we moved here. My parents live in Brentwood, too.”
BHP: What do you want residents to know about your role here with the city?
Chaudhari: “A lot of times, people might be calling for something that’s not a super positive thing. Like you’re calling about a traffic ticket or something with the police department that might not be positive or paying a water bill. So, I hope that in some way I can make [their encounter with the city] positive. Most of all, I hope that I’m helpful when they call.”
BHP: Do you get calls often where people ask a question and you don’t know the answer?
Chaudhari: “Yeah, occasionally. We had a unique situation within the last couple of weeks where somebody called and they were wondering who to talk to about someone’s cows getting into their yard. And that was one of those where I was kind of like, ‘We don’t really have a department for that.’ So we just kind of had to talk to them and eventually lead them to someone at Williamson County.”
BHP: What’s the best part of your job?
Chaudhari: “Interacting with people all day long. That’s by far my favorite. I love meeting new people and you never know who’s going to walk through the door, and so I just love that. I love getting to talk with new people everyday. We have so many great people who work here. I love our police department, I love our fire department. They just make it a really positive place to come to work everyday.”
BHP: Is Administrative Professionals Day important to you?
Chaudhari: “So, I’ve never done this type of job before. It was kind of weird to think about being on this side of it because in the past, especially coming from a PR background, like last year I was trying to put things together for MC [Sparks] at the library because I was celebrating her. It felt weird to even be on the receiving end of it this year.”
BHP: When you’re not here, what are you doing? What’s your favorite hobby?
Chaudhari: “Cheering my boys on at sports, probably. That’s what like consumes our time when I’m not here. And spending time with family and friends.”
BHP: Do you feel like you have a good work-life balance?
Chaudhari: “I feel like, because of the nature of this job, it allows me to have a really good work-life balance. It’s such a supportive environment of people where if I have to leave early because Jackson has a game and it starts really close to when I would usually leave, I never have to feel stressed out about it.”
BHP: What’s a frequently asked question that residents have when they call?
Chaudhari: “It depends on the time of year, I feel like. We get a lot of reports of potholes, and stuff I would usually transfer down to the Service Center. One of the things I’m spending a lot of time talking about right now is our 50th anniversary as a city, whether it be questions about upcoming events or the items we have for sell to celebrate. City Hall is the pick up location for all orders, so that’s a big part of my day these days.”
BHP: Do you watch sports? And if so, what are your favorite teams?
Chaudhari: “Tennessee football, because I’m a UT graduate, so that’s a big one for our family. And basketball, this year, and because my oldest loves basketball, we pay a lot of attention to that. St. Louis Cardinals would be my baseball team and the Preds are definitely my hockey team. But the Blues are definitely my boys’ favorite hockey team, so that caused a little bit of tension in our household this morning. They were born in St. Louis, so it feels like their home team.”
BHP: Mac or PC?
Chaudhari: “Oh, Mac.”
BHP: Summer or winter?
Chaudhari: “Summer, for sure.”
BHP: Country life or city life?
Chaudhari: “Oh, that’s a tough one, because there’s good parts to both. I would probably lean more towards city life just because I love the energy of it. But it’s nice to escape to country life sometimes, too.”
BHP: Is there any message you would like to give residents?
Chaudhari: “I think a lot of times I am [the first point of contact for people to the city]. And I think that’s why I do hope that it’s helpful and pleasant. I know a lot of times when you’re calling for information somewhere, you always feel like, ‘Oh, I have to talk to an operator,’ or ‘I have to press this button.’ But when you call here, you don’t have to do that, and so that’s why I hope it’s helpful.”
Jamie Booker — Service Center, Administrative Secretary
Brentwood Home Page: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Booker: “I’ve been here for 10.5 years with the city here. I started out as the receptionist, and the secretary that [held my current job] had to leave. And so they asked if I would fill the position, and I said, ‘Absolutely.’ So I’ve been there ever since, and that’s been about eight years that I’ve been in that role.”
BHP: What do you do for the city?
Booker: “I am the administrative assistant for the Public Works Department, Engineering, Water Services and Parks and Rec. So pretty much everybody that is out of this office, I’m kind of their girl Friday.”
BHP: Where are you from?
Booker: “I’m originally from upstate New York, Albany area. I went to high school in Memphis, and then I joined the military and that’s what brought me back to Tennessee.”
BHP: Why did you join the military?
Booker: “Oh, you know, one of those career things. I thought I wanted to do one thing, and then it was just like, ‘Oh, this is not working well.’ And actually, I went because of my friend, he had joined the Marines. He said there was a buddy program, and so I looked into it and I decided that I am very much not a crawl-in-the-dirt kind of gal. So, I went into the Navy as an electrician stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, stayed for 3.5 years, did my time and got out. I was an electrician on the tug boats, it was very cool.”
BHP: Did you have a background as an electrician?
Booker: “Absolutely not. I was actually a cosmetologist before. So yeah, total opposite. I did hair and found out that I was really not into getting into other people’s hair and that kind of thing. I really wasn’t digging the whole electrician thing either, but my recruiter recommended I not go in as ‘undesignated,’ so I had a choice between an electrician, a torpedoman or a boiler tech. I chose the lesser of all three.”
BHP: What would you want residents to know about your role here?
Booker: “Typically I just would like people to know that the Service Center is … I always call it the ‘workhorse of the city.’ This is where we have our Streets Department, our Water Department, the engineers and [the] Parks [and Recreation Department]. So when people are ready to take advantage of this beautiful Spring weather and they want to go out into the park system or what have you, then they can call our office and we can help them get a reservation in a park to have a picnic, they can reserve a ball field, they can pick up trail maps, or they can just get any kind of general information. For the Engineering Department, people who would like to know information about their property like the property lines, what they can and cannot do on their property, what kind of permits are required, [etc.]. For the Water Department, if [residents] have an issue with their grinder pump, they would call this office and we would put in a work order and get somebody out there to correct it. Water flow issues, water color issues, if there is a break in a line and water [is] flowing in the street, [we help with] anything like that.”
BHP: What’s the best part of your job?
Booker: “The best part is honestly the guys. This is probably the best team of people I have ever worked with, really and truly. You come in and you feel like you are part of the family. There are only three girls in the office, which would be myself, the receptionist and the park maintenance supervisor. So to have three women with 80 men, you kind of have to have thick skin, but it’s a ball every day. And I like helping the citizens. They are very grateful for the services that we offer, and that is always so nice to hear because it kind of balances out when you have people who are so unhappy over one thing or another and they call and they are just a complete and utter grump. And sometimes they just need to vent and get that out of their system, and then by the end of the call they’re typically like, ‘I know it’s not your fault.’ I like being able to turn that around so they can get it out of their system, know that somebody’s acknowledging that you know, ‘I get it. You have an issue, and we’ll address it.’”
BHP: What’s one thing you want people to know about you?
Booker: “I guess I would just like people to know that I do enjoy my job, and I am totally OK with people calling and griping. And if I can help them, then I like that. I think everybody feels like they need to have a sense of fulfillment doing something. And when people go to the website, I am responsible for a lot of the content that comes to Parks and Public Works. I take great pride in that because it takes a little bit of time to have to put together thoughts on the web pages and that kind of thing.”
BHP: Is Administrative Professionals Day something you have celebrated before? And is it important?
Booker: “Yes to both. The boys definitely recognize both Priscilla, the receptionist, and I. They’ll typically all gather up front and come up and say something to us, and they also come up to us individually and throughout the day. Somebody’s constantly saying, ‘Thank you for what you do,’ and that’s always good to hear.”
BHP: Do you feel like there are some days when it feels like a thankless job?
Booker: “It can feel like that sometimes … because I see it from the angle because I know the information is out there, like on the website, for example. I guess I get a little frustrated because I wish that people would use that information, use our social media access and look on our website, because there is a lot of good information on there. And if people would just take the time and read through it, that can really help to alleviate some of that stress.”
BHP: What are you sports teams?
Booker: “Boston for baseball. I don’t follow NFL much, but if I do then I will watch the Titans or the Patriots. [For] SEC, I’m all about the Tennessee Vols.”
BHP: Are you a morning or an evening person?
BHP: Would you rather live near the mountains or the beach?”
Booker: “Oh wow, that’s hard. See like, right here is ideal because we’re almost in the middle. But I do love the beach, I would probably go with the beach. I like a good tan.”
BHP: Coffee or tea?
Booker: “I like all the foofoo coffees and sweet tea.”
BHP: When you’re not here, what are you typically doing? What’s your favorite hobby?
Booker: “Right now it is crocheting. I have got this crazy addiction to crocheting right now. If I could finish a project, that would be great! I’ve been actually teaching myself to crochet.”
BHP: Tell me about your family life?
Booker: “I am married, I have three children. One of them lives at home, my other two are adults. So, my oldest daughter lives here, my son lives in New Jersey and my little one lives with me, she’s 10. So I’ve got quite the gap. I go from a 26-year old to a 10-year old.”
BHP: Is there anything else you want to tell residents?
Booker: “I guess I would just love people to know that we are here. I always feel like because we’re not connected to City Hall that we get kind of forgotten down here [at the Service Center]. I just would like people to know that we are very happy and privileged to be able to serve this community, because it is a phenomenal community. And I’ve watched it grow even over the last 10 years, and it’s been a lot of great changes. I can’t wait to see what else we’re gonna be doing.”