Dayton welcomes new city secretary

Jennifer Pafford Billings is the new city secretary for Dayton.

By Vanesa Brashier,

Jennifer Pafford Billings, who holds one of the most prestigious certifications in the state for municipal court clerks, is the new city secretary for Dayton. Her first day as city secretary was Jan. 15.

Billings steps into a position vacated by the previous city secretary, Shannon O’Keefe, who resigned earlier this month. Billings, who has 18 years with the city, previously worked as the municipal court clerk under the late Municipal Court Judge Glenn Pruitt and the presiding Judge Alan Conner.

Billings, 40, moved with her parents, Charles and Rita Pafford, to the Dayton area when she was 6. She graduated from Dayton High School in 1997 before attending Lee College.

After college, she joined the City of Dayton in 2001, first working as a part-time court clerk and part-time police dispatcher. She transitioned into a full-time position as a court clerk, where she excelled in municipal court management. In 2016, she graduated from a certified court manager program through the National Center of State Courts.

She is one of 98 certified municipal court clerks in the state of Texas, certified through the Texas Municipal Education Center and Texas State University.

“It’s hard to get. That’s why there are only 98 so far,” Billings said.

As city secretary, Billings will continue to supervise the municipal court.

“I have good staff at the municipal court to help me,” she said.

Billings believes her training as a municipal court clerk will serve her well as city secretary. She has received training in human resources, finance, technology and management – skills that every good manager must know, she said.

City Manager Theo Melancon is confident that Billings is a good fit for the job.

“She is a diligent and conscientious person who leads by example. She has always produced high level work and she is coming into this role at a pivotal time for the organization and community,” he said.

Billings says that Melancon’s management style of breaking down barriers between departments has helped her grow as an employee and made it possible for her to qualify as city secretary.

“I have learned a lot more since Theo has been here. He allows us to learn a lot about other departments. Before him, I knew a lot about municipal courts and the police department. I didn’t know a whole lot about the other departments,” she said. “He wants everybody to break down the silos and get a better knowledge of what other departments do, so we can be a better team.”

Billings and her husband, Bill, have three children and one grandson, and live in Dayton.

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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