Metro Parks Payroll Specialist
Hometown and Background
I’m from Mount Vernon, which is about an hour northeast of Columbus. It’s the county seat of Knox County and has a population of almost 17,000 people. My family used to run a dairy farm, the Spring Meadow Dairy, on our 80-acre estate in the town. It was started by my great-grandfather, Ira J Gault, and was passed down to my grandpa. It ceased operating as a dairy after a fire in 1956, and after my grandma became widowed she later sold about 50 acres of the land. The 30 acres that remained contained a large woodland. I get my love of nature from having spent so much time walking in those woods when I was young, often with my younger brother, CJ.
I studied accounting at the Newark branch of the Central Ohio Technical College, which stands me in good stead for my job today and for the other business roles I’ve performed over the years. I had worked for a horse trailer company, which required me to navigate through the various Clerk of Courts Title agencies. That connection ultimately led to me moving to Columbus. The Delaware County Clerk of Courts opened a branch office of their title division at Lewis Center and I helped open the office in 2003. For almost two years, I drove the 45 miles between home and work every work day. State Route 229 is a beautiful road, with lots of ups and downs. It was almost like hill hopping on a roller coaster to get to work and I found it very stressful skating to work in the winter months. I was lucky to evade several fatal accidents that happened on that route. It also added about two hours to my work day, just traveling. And that time doesn’t include the days in the fall season when you’d manage to get behind one or two painfully-slow-moving farm vehicles that added many a quarter of an hour and many a head full of stress to your journey. Fuel was expensive too, so in 2005 I moved to Columbus.
I hardly knew anyone in Columbus, apart from the people I worked with, and felt like a little house mouse who moved to the big city. I left the title agency in 2013 after being introduced to some new people locally and grew to manage their dumpster company, Gorilla Dumpsters. Those nine years gave me an education I’ll never forget. It taught me so much about waste management and the recycling industry, sales, business, machinery, the construction cycle, along with marketing, networking and technology. When you run a small company, there isn’t anyone to hand off duties to, so you have to be quick on your feet very often. And there’s loads of things you have to learn and do it yourself to get the job done. Some of that time at the end was getting more painful so I started looking for a place to be where I could enjoy work again. That opportunity presented itself when I saw the position advertised for a payroll clerk at Metro Parks. I’ve worked with four or five different payroll systems over the years, so I thought this could be a good fit for me. And I’ve always been a big fan of Metro Parks and the wonderful work it does in conservation and nature education. I was delighted to be offered the position and started here in January 2022.
What I do at Metro Parks
My number one priority is to make sure that all Metro Parks employees get their paychecks! I crack up at hearing jokes about being one of the more popular staff within this team… “Be kind to Amy, she pays you!” There might have been a hiccup or two in the beginning, but now I know what to look for and what to do about it. There are 370 people on the current payroll, which includes our seasonal employees, and we aren’t even done adding yet! Our HR team will add about another 20 to 30 new staff to fit the needs of our parks over the next few weeks. We are in constant conversation in the spring, during this busy time for everyone, making sure all of the paperwork and deadlines are met.
Everyone can help ease some of that stress by entering and submitting their time into ESS in a timely manner. Which is on the Monday at the end of a pay period. The worst would be for an employee to forget to enter their work hours at all for a given week, and that really does require last-minute leaps and is an unnecessary waste of time. I’m glad to say that by a combination of our Manager Team and a tweak of the process here and there, everyone always gets their paycheck. It’s a huge sigh of relief when my email inbox is empty on the Friday morning of a pay day, and yes, I fret for all of you (when things change). I never want to fail anyone on our team.
We use two different systems for the payroll process: MUNIS is the master system and ESS is the time-tracker element. It is a much different system, bigger in some aspects than what I have worked on before, with its own little quirks. But I see some of its advantages when you offer as many perks and options as we do!
What I love most about my job
The more that employees can be kept from worrying about what hits their account on Fridays, the better they can perform their valuable duties in the parks, whether in terms of park maintenance, resource management, the safety of visitors, or education. I like to think that I am in the background contributing something to all those important endeavors myself, by doing my own job well and efficiently. That gives me satisfaction, with every final payroll entry.
My favorite Metro Parks activity
I’ve always been an outdoor person and I love to hike. When I first moved to Columbus, I worked near Highbanks and I got to know its trails really well. At work, I like to take a break and have a stroll down to Spring Hollow Lodge, for the fresh air, the scenery and the fitness. I love being outdoors from April to November. I often do the naturalist-led hike at The 100 Acre Wood, and I frequently meet up with a friend of mine at Glacier Ridge for walks there. But most of all, I enjoy taking my niece and nephew to the parks. Last spring, I took them with me to Slate Run Living Historical Farm to see the new-born animals. Roman, who turns four in July, and Rose, now two, loved to see the horses, baby lambs and piglets. It was so sweet to watch their excitement and sense of wonderment at each turn.
My favorite Metro Parks story that involves a positive visitor interaction
I’m largely isolated from the public, so I don’t have visitor interactions, as such. But I can speak as a visitor, both before and after I started to work at Metro Parks, and say that we have an awesome staff here at Metro Parks. Our rangers are always visible and attentive to visitors’ needs. Last fall, I had an opportunity to help out Stephanie West on a project at Blendon Woods and spent some time with her. I saw how appreciative park visitors were of her outstanding efforts to make everyone feel welcome and involved.
If I could go anywhere in the world and time and money were not a concern…
If I had the money, I’d want to take an ocean liner and see the world, starting out with Thailand, Australia and Italy. I’ve been on cruises before and loved it. I went from Port Miami to Cozumel in Mexico, then Jamaica and Grand Cayman, the largest of the Cayman Islands. Travel in general is a great way to experience different cultures, to get a great education about the people who live in these exotic or different locations. You get to hear their songs, eat their food, and see how they live.
I’d also like to visit Britain again. My family on my mother’s side hails from Wales, and I’ve been following a TV show on Hulu, Welcome to Wrexham. It’s about Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, who bought Wrexham Football Club and promised to revitalize their fortunes. It’s a Welsh team, but they are one of the oldest soccer teams ever to play in the English soccer leagues. They hit rock bottom before the Hollywood stars came to town, and were relegated out of the entire four-division English Football League. But a couple of weeks ago, they won promotion back into the lowest division of the EFL, and the actors want to get them promoted all the way to the top level, the English Premier League, to play against teams like Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. The show isn’t just about football though. It provides a wonderful insight into this small Welsh town and its people, and how welcoming they have been to their American benefactors.
Fun facts about me and my family
1. Me and my cats! I have four cats, all of them Siamese. Their names are Jasper, Moe, Luca and Violet. The last two are siblings. Initially, they were indoor-cats only, but I tried to get them used to wearing a harness. That isn’t easy, with cats. Jasper took to it easily. He was 3-years-old at the time, and he quickly adapted to wearing the harness as it allowed him to go outside, where he discovered an entire new world of birds flying and singing, fresh air on his face, and lots of new smells and sights. But Luca and Violet resisted all my efforts, in the beginning, to get them used to a harness. They would leap wildly, flop side to side, and beg to be freed of its constraints. It took a little while, and I left them in harnesses for a couple of hours at a time over a few days. Eventually, they too came to appreciate the world outside. Now, all four of my cats beg to be harnessed, because they know that wearing their harness results in them getting to go outside. I only take them out one at a time, though. Four cats on leads – that would be chaos!
2. Cooking! I love to cook and to create new or modified recipes. I’m always looking for something a little bit healthier. I’ll make a tuna salad, but instead of making it with mayonnaise, as the recipe calls for, I use Greek yoghurt for a healthier and lighter dish. I try to reduce red meat in my diet and will often make turkey burgers or black bean burgers. I love to use my air fryer. In fact, I use it every day, mostly for vegetables such as broccoli, sweet potato fries and Brussels sprouts. It’s also great for baking, or for reheating pizza or left overs. Link to Amy’s Tuna Salad with Greek yoghurt recipe
3. The Lower 48! I’ve been to 35 of the Lower 48 states, and I want to complete the set sometime in the not-too-distant future. I need to visit the states north of New York, such as Maine and Vermont, and also the north western areas, including Montana, the Dakotas, Oregon, etc. I’ve been fortunate to have visited a lot of National Parks on my many family trips growing up, including the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and most recently, the first national park, Yosemite in California. But my favorite of The National Parks, so far, are Zion and Bryce Canyon, both in Utah.
My favorite food and dessert
Sushi is my favorite food. There are a couple of terrific sushi places in north Columbus that I often go to, the Sushi En at Polaris and Sushi.com Japanese Restaurant in Dublin. I love that sushi is so healthy and that you can eat plenty without ever feeling over-stuffed. Some of my favorite sushi rolls include tuna, salmon, scallop and mahi-mahi, also known as dolphin fish. I actually managed to catch a dolphin fish on a fishing boat excursion while on a trip to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. After eating sushi, my favorite dessert is usually an orange sherbet, but overall, I like frozen yoghurt the best, either in a cup or a cone.
My favorite entertainment
For entertainment, I love live music more than anything. I’ve seen U2 in concert five different times, three times here in Columbus, and also in Pittsburgh and Chicago. I’ve also seen The Foo Fighters, Tom Petty and Pink Floyd. The last concert I went to featured Chris Stapleton, who’s a great Country Music singer. I listen to a wide variety of music from The Beach Boys to Huey Lewis and the News, to Alternative, to Country, to The Blues and even Classical music too. A lot of my off time is spent in the summer out on my deck with Spotify blaring my favorite tunes.
Another favorite entertainment of mine is playing or watching pool. I played a lot when I was younger. There was a pool hall in Mount Vernon, called The Office. My father taught me how to play there. One night, the great Paul Gerni, widely considered the greatest trick shot artist ever, picked me out of the crowd and hit a trick shot off my mouth. I had to lean back with my head at the end of the table, and I bit on a piece of pool chalk on which the cue ball was placed, then he hit the cue ball to make the eight ball in the corner pocket. It was great fun. I went to watch a number of professional pool tournaments and exhibitions here in Columbus, and loved seeing the English pool star, Allison Fisher, play against her worthy opponent Janet Lee. Those two are amazing and so talented, I can’t imagine the amount of time they have spent perfecting their craft.
I’m busy outdoors in summer, but in winter I enjoy catching up with my favorite TV shows. I have various subscriptions and enjoy watching The Black List, and Lucifer, on Netflix; The Marvelous Mrs Maisel on Amazon Prime; and the previously mentioned Welcome to Wrexham on Hulu. But I think my favorite show, right now, is Ted Lasso, on Apple TV+.
If I had just 60 seconds to share why I love working at Metro Parks, I’d say…
I love being part of an organization that makes such a difference in preserving land and protecting nature experiences for future generations of Ohioans. Green space could come to an end without the valuable work that organizations like Metro Parks do.