A Free Gift: EH Town Offers Employee Jackets

Last week, East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said he felt so proud of his town employees, he wanted to give them all a gift, with his compliments. It would be a fleece-lined jacket with the Town seal on it and the name of the employee stitched over the heart.

Initially, he had hoped this would be a surprise, he said. But then someone pointed out he would need to ask everybody what size they wore and what official “name” they wanted stitched on the jacket. So it couldn’t be a surprise. It wouldn’t do to have something ordered in size XXXL for Sluggo, only to find out that Sluggo was actually the loving nickname that everybody called the lady in the Town Clerk’s office who was a size six.

Frankly, the negative reaction that greeted Mr. Wilkinson’s proposal came as a great surprise to us. That’s because we here at Dan’s Papers have had a terrific improvement in work output since we bought company jackets for everybody who works at the paper. We have a morning muster. We have a bugler play “Reveille.” At the end of the day we have our daily staff meeting, where we give out medals to well-performing employees for that day and send them home after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance (to Dan’s Papers). Once a year, we give promotions to good employees, which include an extra gold chevron to be worn on the sleeve above the ones already there. Some people have eight or nine chevrons.

Fistfights have all but disappeared from the halls of Dan’s Papers. Even loud shouting has fizzled out. The number of births in the office has dramatically improved from years gone by.

As a result of this success, there’s been an idea we have discussed from time to time, where we consider paying to provide jackets from Dan’s Papers‘ profits to various people you find in the Hamptons, so you could tell which group they belonged to. Red would be for the celebrities. You’d easily be able to see that the person who looks like Seinfeld or Madonna really is Seinfeld or Madonna. Blue would be for yachtsmen. Green would be for the wealthy, old-money set. Tan would be for the clammers, surfcasters and other locals; orange and pink would be for the twentysomethings, and camouflage would be for the environmentalists.

There’s a lot that can be said for knowing who is who in the Hamptons. And all can be sartorially equipped at a tollbooth at the crossing of the Shinnecock Canal bridge. For a fee, of course.

In any case, regarding town jackets, many of those East Hampton employees, including some of the town board members, were not overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the Supervisor’s idea to give employees matching jackets out of the goodness of his heart (and out of the taxpayers’ pocketbooks).

The reasons seem simple. For one thing, Mr. Wilkinson had spent four years cutting and slashing both at the payroll and at the supply office in order to get the out-of-whack budget back into balance—an extraordinary feat that kept the town from bankruptcy. So there would be many people—in addition to the 200 town employees—who had once worked for the town and now no longer did. And everybody knows who these people are who wouldn’t be getting jackets, because this is a small town. So this would be an “I’m Still Here But You’re Not” jacket, in spite of the Supervisor’s good intentions.

Another thing was the cost. Wilkinson said that 200 jackets would be just $30 per jacket, so the total would be just $7,000, which isn’t very much for a town this size. But others said this cost was nevertheless $7,000, a completely unnecessary cost. Ms. Overby, a town board member, commented that maybe the money should be put toward paying for clothing for just a few employees—for example, the Sanitation Department, which had not been provided with new clothing since 2010. Think about that for a minute or two.

Others wondered how the Supervisor could do such a thing without a vote of the whole five-member town board. And then there were people who thought the Supe was just a single step away from requiring that all town employees wear the jackets while at work, which they really didn’t want to do, since it would just make everyone look alike, like they were at a McDonald’s or something. One person told The East Hampton Star he thought perhaps there would be a GPS device secretly stitched into each of the jackets so Wilkinson could keep track of where everybody was at all times.

Whatever the reaction, Wilkinson liked the town jacket idea. He said he had already gathered up the sizes and names of all town employees, except for the Town Planning and Budget office employees. Maybe he could proceed to follow up on this at the next box lunch informal board meeting.

If you think about it, Mr. Wilkinson, who came on board here to save the day (and did, like it or not), was formerly in real life a Human Resources Executive at Walt Disney, in charge of personnel, who are—as we all know—from mouse ears to white tap shoes, all dressed up in uniform. So it is not surprising he would come up with this idea as a sort of perk for everybody. Shouldn’t they just love it?

“I don’t know how the residents would feel about employees that don’t want to wear a town jacket,” Mr. Wilkinson told the Star. “That bothers me.”

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