While Michele and Roger Lowery made a promise to serve each other like any other married couple, they both took their commitment a step beyond that.
Not only are the Lowerys dedicated to serving each other, but they have also made a commitment to serve the community they call home. They have been employed by Harvey County for a combined three decades.
This week, people like the Lowerys are being honored as part of National Public Service Recognition Week — highlighting the dedicated work of those in such roles (including government employees, police officers, firefighters, health care professionals and teachers) who keep a community going.
For the Lowerys, those roles are quite diverse. Michele is the newly appointed Harvey County Appraiser and has worked in that office for more than 20 years. Roger works with the Road and Bridge Department as an engineer tech and heavy equipment operator, helping overlay the county roads and replace bridges.
As Michele puts it, she does "everything" at the appraiser's office — from ruling on tax exemptions and processing appeals on property values to handling personnel decisions. She has worked her way up to taking on those responsibilities, and while she noted there is a certain stress that comes with the territory, the diverse duties she handles have driven her to continue her work in the appraiser's office.
"It can be interesting because we have to keep an eye on the market, what properties are selling for, all the ins and outs that entails," Michele said. "It's never dull, which is a good thing for a job because if it gets dull you don't want to do it anymore."
In working in the appraiser's office for two decades, Michele admitted she has gotten to know most of the taxpayers she serves —which hints at an interesting dynamic in the separation of work life and home life.
While serving Harvey County residents, both Michele and Roger's work is very public, but they noted they have had little trouble creating a delineation between those two realms.
"My neighbors know where I work and they don't bother me much while I'm at home," Michele said. "Every once in a while they do have questions, but it's just never really bothered me."
Challenges are ever-present working in the appraiser's office, as taxes can be a subject of a lot of stress in general. While Michele admitted she has seen that firsthand, she also said it feels good when she can help taxpayers positively change their property valuation. Work like that — and the goals she has set out as appraiser (as well as those she has to comply with) — keep her going.
For Roger, working with the Road and Bridge Department was mainly about getting away from the physically demanding labor tied to his previous career in the roofing industry. Having ties to the former Road and Bridge superintendent, Roger got his foot in the door and the projects the department handles regularly are something he has come to enjoy immensely.
"Watching new bridges going up and going in, I get to see them from tear-down to complete rebuild," Roger said. "I find that kind of stuff fascinating."
There are some drawbacks to working in public service — Michele noted the work of the appraiser's office can come under scrutiny — but the impact and significance of that work is something that cannot be denied.
Public servants have a hand in meeting a lot of needs in the community. While the appraiser's office plays a major role in that (collecting property taxes), having that week of recognition goes a long way to validating the services the Lowerys and others like them provide.
"As long as we do a good job, we can help keep the police and fire running. That's what all this is for anyways — all these services for the public," Michele said. "We're not very well liked, especially this office, and I'd just like for the public to know we do work hard."
"We're here to serve the people," Roger said, "so this is what we do."
National Public Service Recognition Week is being celebrated May 5-11.