Be Connected: Behind-the-scenes with Jasmine Rodriquez, Assistant City Registrar
In this edition, we sit down with real-life Superwoman and Assistant City Registrar Jasmine Rodriquez to discuss the ways in which the Registry intersects with the lives of everyday residents, how her team stays connected through the pandemic, and what it’s like to be a new manager in a socially distant world.
Be Connected: Jasmine, I’d like to start by thanking you again for agreeing to speak with me. It’s funny, for this series, we set out to hear from people across the City of Boston who kind of put their heads down and do the work that needs to be done - so it should come as no surprise that a lot of those folks aren’t comfortable being in the spotlight. But you saw the opportunity to let others know how the Registry team has been working through the pandemic, and I hope to accomplish that.
Jasmine Rodriguez: It is my pleasure. It's been tough, but we are getting through it. I'm not one that likes to be in the spotlight either, but I feel good about sharing what's going on now with the pandemic. People should know that the Registry team has been working hard.
I have to be honest with you, as a (relatively...) young unmarried/childless woman, I’ve had very little interaction with the Registry myself. Can you tell me in your own words what the Registry does, and what purpose it serves?
The Registry has three sections: Birth, Death, and Marriage. We provide certified copies of those records that residents can use for legal purposes, genealogy, or just to have their own records on file. I feel like what the Registry really does is help Bostonians keep going through the events in their lives.
I bet there are a lot of different reasons someone might come to the Registry to obtain those records and documents. Can you give me an example of how the work of the Registry might intersect with the life of an average Bostonian?
We work a lot with customers who need their birth certificate before they go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). The RMV now requires a birth certificate in order to get a Real ID. Everyone needs a birth certificate to identify themselves at some point. Others need a death certificate to prove someone has passed. We also deal with the courts, getting court orders to correct records as needed.
So on any given day, you guys are helping people through situations that can be frustrating, emotionally draining, uplifting, exciting, or even downright upsetting. Do you often see strong emotions in the people you serve?
Yes most definitely, but that's what makes me excited and ready to work every day. I just want to be able to help the person in front of me. Sure, sometimes emotions can get in the way, but you just have to be professional. There can be ups and downs, especially now during the pandemic. It has been a roller coaster of emotions for our customers, not being able to come into City Hall and get a record. But working for the Registry will never get boring, because there is always something going on.
Definitely, I would rather have a day filled with epic victories and tragic failures than a day where nothing happens at all. That's probably something a lot of us City employees have in common.
So what is it that do you do at the Registry, and in what circumstances would I come to you specifically?
My position is Assistant Registrar and I supervise the Birth section. So I make sure that the staff is doing their part and sending out the correct birth records. I will take care of any problems with issuing the birth certificates. For example, if a customer got the wrong birth certificate, I would send them the correct one. But I’ve worked in basically all of the sections in the Registry, including Depositions. That’s the section that makes corrections and amendments, and is one of the biggest parts of the Registry.
I’m a big fan of your boss, Patty [McMahon]. She let me know that you started as a Principal Clerk, then you were promoted to Deposition Clerk, and that you were recently promoted again to Assistant Registrar in January of this year. Can you tell me a little bit about your career progression — how did you come to your first role in the City of Boston, and how have your responsibilities changed and grown since then?
I started working for the City when I was around fifteen years old, as a summer youth employee. I got the opportunity to work at City Hall and see the Registry, and then I took a chance to see if I could get in there. Which I did!
Starting as a Principal Clerk was hard, just learning new skills and how to process different things. From Principal Clerk to supervisor, my responsibilities have changed a lot. Looking back to 2016, I don’t remember exactly how I got here, but I know that I was a hard worker, willing to learn new things, and motivated to help people.
I'm obsessed with Obama's former Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Scheduling and Advance, Alyssa Mastromonaco. My favorite quote from her is “Jobs like this—the kind of job of which there are many, the kind that are definitely good but that no one teaches you to want—are found only with an open mind and a willingness to do your own thing.” Sounds like you!
That is perfect.
I myself was a first time manager a couple years back — that’s not an easy position to be in at the best of times, let alone in the midst of a global pandemic. What is it like to be a new manager in these times, and how do you think your experience might be different from mine or others?
Being a new manager during this time is really hard, but I just follow the steps that I need to follow in order to be the best manager I can be. The hardest part about being a manager right now is the fact that the staff is on a rotating schedule. We also have two new people that started in the middle of the pandemic. Onboarding and training the new staff has been difficult, as I am not in the office everyday and then I won’t see them for another week because of the rotation. It was just an adjustment that I had to make, working from home and then coming into the office.
Quite the adjustment! How has your team managed to stay positive and maintain connections to one another and the mission while rotating in and out of the office?
At first it was a mess trying to manage working from home, but we figured we’d just focus on taking care of our sections and helping out however we can. We tried to stay positive for each other, because everyone has a different situation, and especially with this pandemic going on — everyone has been affected in different ways.
In one of our first Be Connected newsletters, we ran an employee story from the Registry team. Even back in May (which feels like multiple lifetimes ago) it was evident how well your team adapted in order to continue providing essential services. What did you guys do in the early days of the pandemic to make that possible, and how have you continued innovating since?
Well [Registrar] Patty [McMahon] started to implement online processes for Birth, Death, and Marriage about three years ago. We started off with the Death records, then last April we began offering Birth and Marriage services online. That option was great, especially for people who don’t live in Boston. But online Birth was the best thing we could have thought of when it came to limiting the number of people coming into City Hall. Although at the beginning of the pandemic, it was difficult for residents to understand that we were only taking online and mail-in orders, because they were used to coming into City Hall for their records.
If there's one silver lining from this nightmare scenario, it's how quickly and efficiently so many departments have moved services online, making them more accessible during the pandemic and beyond.
This has been incredibly informative and inspiring, thank you for bearing with me. Let’s wrap it up with some fun lightning round questions, okay?
Would you rather be able to speak every language in the world or be able to talk to animals?
Speak every language.
Fill in the blank: Taylor Swift is _________.
Taylor swift is cool.
A very diplomatic answer. Favorite Halloween costume you’ve ever worn?
Well now that I've gotten to know more about you and what you do - I can see why the Superwoman costume fits you! Thank you so much for your time, and for everything you do, Jasmine. It's been a pleasure talking to you.
Thank you, I appreciate you chatting with me about what happens here at the Registry.
Erin Santhouse joined the City of Boston in 2014 as a scheduler for Mayor Walsh. She is currently a Project Manager for the HR Transformation and the lead content strategist for Be Connected. In lieu of providing further biographical information, she suggests googling “Kelly Kapoor quotes”.