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Jerry Davich: ‘Doris’ clones keep NWI businesses humming

Operations manager Candy Smith with office cShammy Bren-Mark window cleaning Valparaiso Thursday Nov. 1 2012. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

Operations manager Candy Smith with the office cat, Shammy, at Bren-Mark window cleaning in Valparaiso Thursday Nov. 1, 2012. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 3, 2012 6:12AM



The name “Doris” is now synonymous with office managers who are the glue of their workplace, at least in some Northwest Indiana companies.

They’re named in honor of Doris Amling, the longtime secretary and go-to person of the Porter County Coroner’s Office, who I recently profiled. I knew there were other Doris-like employees out there, and readers proved my theory by nominating several of them for today’s follow-up column.

For starters, here are snapshot profiles for three of the nominees. Feel free to keep the “Doris” nominations coming.

Candy Smith

Candy Smith is like an air traffic controller at an ever-busy airport behind her desk at Bren-Mark Window Cleaning in Valparaiso.

“She keeps things taking off and landing with minimal issues,” said her boss, Don Markovich, who owns the business with his wife, Brenda. “I think most successful businesses have someone like Candy as their glue.”

I heard this same word, “glue,” again and again from readers who nominated their “Doris-like” employees. It’s no different for Smith, whose current title is operations manager after climbing the company’s ladder (literally and figuratively) for 12-plus years.

“At 18, Candy started out here as a window cleaner, but Brenda knew when she interviewed her that she was special,” Don told me. “Every job Candy has had, she has shown responsibility. And she has taken on more responsibility whenever needed.”

That’s another common word repeatedly used to describe these types of go-to employees — responsible. As well as accountable, dependable and even inspirational.

“Our business requires a tremendous amount of attention to detail. No one knows more about individual customers, scheduling, routing, billing, and so on, than Candy,” Don said.

Smith, who’s an animal lover, a runner and a bit of a hippie, doesn’t get paid hourly or salary. Instead, she is paid on a percentage of overall sales.

“This is in part due to her ability to do anything necessary to run the business,” Don explained. “I don’t know of any other businesses that pay a manager strictly on a percentage of sales. This is our way of sharing our success with the person most responsible for it — Candy.”

Doris Klingeberger

Doris Klingeberger turns 90 in a couple of months but her age hasn’t stopped her from continuing to work. Or from being the longtime “Doris” at the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point.

“She has been an extremely valued, loved and productive employee of the Lake County Council office for years and years, and she remains so every day that she goes to work,” said her son, Phil Klingeberger.

Doris (yes, another Doris) is a part-time employee these days, working either some or all of the day, three days a week. She lives independently, driving on her own to work.

“She was originally hired by Syd Garner, God rest his soul,” Phil said. “She has been remarkable in her devotion to her job and to the citizens of this county.”

Doris’ husband died in late 2011, after 69 years of marriage, causing her to miss a few days of work. But she returned more determined than ever to keep her office operating as smoothly as possible.

“If you want to honor total devotion to work for a lifetime — a long one at that — and to work ethic and public service, that’s my mom, my Doris,” Phil said.

Jenny Kasperek

Jenny Kasperek does so many things at R&B Customs in Portage that she doesn’t even have a title worthy of all her duties.

Secretary. Receptionist. Office manager. Bookkeeper. Sales representative. Service provider. You name it, she’s been doing it for more than a decade at this business, which sells truck caps, remote starters and dozens of other vehicle accessories.

“I guess we’d call her a general manager if she had to have a title,” said her mother, Brenda Kasperek, who laughed when I asked for her daughter’s correct title. “She also keeps all the guys in line around here.”

I heard similar comments from many other readers about their own workplace “Doris” when it came to keeping all the male workers “in line.”

I always find it amazing that all it takes is one clever, crafty or no-nonsense woman to keep several men in line, on time and productive. Otherwise, it doesn’t take much for guys to act like, well, guys.

“Even though the shop has an awesome team in place, it couldn’t exist on a daily basis without Jenny,” Brenda Kasperek said of her daughter, who’s 41 and lives in Valparaiso. “She says that her paycheck is all the recognition she needs, but she deserves public recognition, too.”

I agree, and that’s exactly the point of my “Doris” columns. Congratulations to Jenny, Candy, Doris, and dozens of other unsung employees who keep our region businesses humming.

Today’s “Casual Fridays” radio show celebrates its one-year anniversary with a look back at the best, worst, and zaniest moments from the past year. Tune in at noon (and 11 p.m.) on WLPR, 89.1-FM, streaming at www.thelakeshorefm.com.



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