Chickens – The New Threshold

Posted on August 2, 2018


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Welcome to a new blog series, “The Local Government Nerve Center” — all about the amazing and important work of clerks and recorders. Want to be a contributor? Learn more here.


By Mary Dibble, City of Albany City Clerk

Being a City Clerk means that the general public often assumes you know all sorts of things and you get some pretty odd phone calls. The beauty of this is that the most fantastical call can serve to set a new threshold of sorts for your organization. Several years ago, I got that call.

The person on the other end asked me who he could call to help him figure out what was causing a foul odor inside his house. I listened to the story (a long and colorful story) about why he was certain the smell was coming from underneath the floorboards. He went on and on about all the steps he had taken so far to figure it out, with no luck. In order to relay the magnitude of “badness” of the smell in his house, he announced that “…even the chickens won’t come in!” Now, you must admit, that must be a really bad smell, if even the chickens won’t come inside. That means the smell is worse than the chickens, which surely smell themselves. Well, maybe they don’t smell themselves; rather, they, themselves, smell too. My point is, that house STANK!

So, of course, I took the appropriate action, and I passed the call on to another government agency (Linn County, Oregon – you’re welcome).  I am sorry to say I don’t know the resolution to the story. However, that particular conversation, which was of course overheard across many office cubicle walls, provided a new threshold of measurement for the employees. It set the bar. It raised the roof. In many conversations that followed throughout the years, if the scenario was described as “bad”, we followed up with the question: “Yeah, but will the chickens come in?” Because THAT is the real question.

What about your organization?  What is the threshold?

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