Hed Lines: New county policy nixes nicknames in public works

Newsweek devoted a cover story in 1996 to the "Dilbert" comic strip, created by Scott Adams.

The story compared real-life events that took place on the job and episodes of the strip and asked readers, "Is it real .

.

.

or is it 'Dilbert'?"

The Mohave County Human Resources Department may have ventured into what Adams calls "the Dilbert zone" with the introduction of a policy on nicknames.

The policy applies to the Public Works Department, which contains flood control, roads, improvement districts and other divisions under its umbrella.

H.R.

Director Geoff (short for Geoffrey) Riches informed me that public works has banished colorful nicknames from performance evaluations, correspondence and e-mail.

He added the policy might be extended to other departments as well.

Riches singled out road superintendent Manuel "Chicken" Esquibel as an example of a nickname that is unacceptable.

"We do not want nicknames of that nature to appear on county documents," Riches said.

"It doesn't look professional.

It potentially could be seen as derogatory, discriminatory, that kind of thing."

I told Riches that Esquibel's nickname appears on his business card, and Riches responded that it would no longer be appropriate.

Esquibel informed me that the nickname originated when he was about 3 or 4 years old.

High school students called him Chicken after he refused their request to throw a rock at another youth.

The nickname has stuck with him.

"It don't bother me," Esquibel said.

"It's just a nickname."

He said he will abide by the new no-nickname policy.

"It's a policy.

It's a policy," Esquibel said.

"People just have to get used to it, I guess."

Esquibel is not the only county employee who has a colorful nickname or one that stuck with him since an early age.

A thirty-something employee in the Department of Financial Services said she played Sacajewa in a play while she attended elementary school.

Her mother still calls her that.

A courier told me that Mohave County Sheriff's Office employees call him "Avon John" because he rings a bell.

One manager told me that employees resorted to nicknames in part because at least seven women who work in the Johnson building are named Linda, with one spelling her name with a "y" instead of an "i."

Henceforth, co-workers call deputy board clerk Linda Romero "Romey" and "Romeo" and budget analyst Linda Fosburgh "Fossy."

And to prove that I am not a stuffed shirt, I created with nicknames of my own.

I named an administrative analyst who guards her boss "The Palace Guard," an allusion to a book that CBS correspondent Dan Rather co-wrote about the Nixon administration.

I named a nurse "Nurse Ratched," for a controlling nurse in the novel and movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

The Palace Guard, Nurse Ratched and others have nicknames for me as well.

The nurse has called me "The Bad Penny" because I kept coming back.

One employee has called me "Scoopless" because of the perception, often incorrect, that the competition regularly beats me on stories.

"I call you 'Les' because it is short for Scoopless, but I don't want to embarrass you in front of other people," she said.

How thoughtful!

I'm used to it.

I endured numerous nicknames as a child because of my last name ("Headless" and "Hitler," to name a few) and the fact that I was skinny ("Skinny Man" and "Sticks").

Some were mean, others playful.

And now, it is payback time.

Riches told me that he would prefer that H.R.

employees not call each other nicknames in the office.

As I spoke, County Manager Ron ("Ronnie" on his business card) Walker walked in.

Walker used his east Texas charm.

"I don't want you to call me 'Stinky' or 'Bubba,'" he quipped.

*

I recently struck up a conversation with a cinema employee in Laughlin after I bought a ticket to see a movie.

She appeared to be in her late 20s, and wore her hair in a bun.

I asked her what kind of movies she enjoyed, and she responded that we have different tastes.

"How do you know?" I asked.

"I' m a drag queen," the employee said.

Ironically, I bought a ticket to see "The Man Who Was Not There," starring Billy Bob Thornton.

Ken Hedler is the county government and political reporter for the Miner.