From Potatoes to Printing
An unwritten part of Sylvia Marmon’s job as supervisor of City Print and Mail Services in Boise, Idaho, is to make Boise “the most livable city in the country.” Mayor David Bieter assigned this task to all city workers, print staff included.
“So if he ever came in and asked what we do for the city, that should be our answer,” Marmon chuckles.
Marmon is making short work of this both inside and outside the walls of her 2,800-sq.-ft. shop. Although she didn’t set out to manage an in-plant, it happened to be a great fit.
“I just worked to make ends meet, and it all happened to fall into place,” she explains. She has been with the operation for 29 years now.
As a California girl from Sacramento, Marmon moved 600 miles to attend the College of Idaho in Caldwell, 25 miles west of Boise. With an intent to study biology (a more “marketable” choice advised by a school counselor, who talked her out of French), she met her future husband before school even started and got what she calls a “Mrs.” degree.
In need of money for the wedding, Marmon got a job at billionaire J.R. Simplot’s potato processing plant and worked for four years producing Idaho’s official state vegetable.
In 1979, there was an opening for a bindery specialist in Simplot Graphic Arts, the corporation’s in-plant. With a young daughter at home, Marmon was eyeing a job on the day shift. As she recalls, “I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I had done work in my mother’s office in high school — collating, addressing and folding newsletters — so some of the tasks were familiar. I thought, ‘I can do this!’ So I applied and was given the job.”
In 1987, Simplot closed the graphic arts department, and Marmon was out of work. However, as an active member of her region’s In-Plant Printing and Mailing Association (IPMA) chapter, she heard about an opening with the City of Boise. The timing was perfect.
“I got the job, and it actually started when the severance pay from Simplot ran out,” she recounts.
Throughout the years, Marmon has advanced from lead printer to production supervisor to supervisor of both printing and mailing. In 1990, she became Idaho’s first woman to receive the title of Certified Graphic Communication Manager (CGCM) from IPMA. That year, she was also named Employee of the Year for the whole city.
Currently, Marmon manages a staff of four and has an annual operating budget of $450,000. Her least favorite part of the job is finances.
“I’m not an accountant-type person,” she admits. “I love customer service and working with people, and I’ve got a good head for numbers, but it gets to be challenging. Predicting future costs is hard.”
When it comes to process improvement, though, Marmon is your gal. She played a big role in consolidating printers and copiers citywide, and implementing a Web-to-print system. As she tells it, for years, city departments had been ordering their own copiers, printers, supplies and maintenance contracts.
“They were buying things that were inappropriate for their needs,” Marmon explains. In fact, a consultant found there were almost 600 machines for a total of 1,500 employees.
“They said we had the worst utilization for any company they had ever worked for,” Marmon recalls. “They recommended we go all-digital and implement an online ordering system.”
So three years ago, the city’s two-color Heidelberg GTO 52 Z went to the offset graveyard, and in 2014, EFI’s Digital StoreFront Web-to-print system went live.
“Now we are down to about 320 printers and copiers for the city. They’re the right size for each department, and they’re put into workgroups,” she explains. Nobody has desktop printers anymore, she says. “They’ve got to get out of their chairs to get their prints.”
Shared printers have Equitrac technology, so users must scan their badges to release the print, which keeps documents secure. Also, any job can be deleted after it’s sent to the printer, a feature that has helped decrease printing volume, one of the city’s additional goals.
The new Web-to-print system handles everything from letterhead to dog license renewals, she says. The shop even sells paper through the system. And because the in-plant handles mail delivery for all departments in the City of Boise, word-of-mouth marketing is a breeze.
When asked where she sees herself in the next few years, Marmon responds, “Retired!” At just 60 years old, it’s hard to believe Marmon is a grandmother 12 times over. She would like to spend her retirement visiting her kids in Oregon and Washington, and spending time with her family that lives locally — including her 90-year-old mother and her mother-in-law.
Marmon is no stranger to travel. One thing other managers may be surprised to learn is that Marmon and her husband have hosted several foreign exchange students. What’s more, for five years, they coordinated a 3,000-mile bus trip to Disneyland with 144 of those students.
“We made it a full two-week trip, stopping to see historical sites and camping along the way. We wanted to expose them to American culture and history,” she recounts. “The kids really bonded, and it was a great experience.”
Even now, Marmon continues to chauffeur large groups. For 17 years she has been a volunteer driver with the Ada County Highway District’s van pool program.
“I keep the van at my house, and I pick up the passengers at two park-and-rides,” she explains. The crew travels together from Caldwell to Boise, and Marmon parks a few blocks from her office. “The passengers all pay for gas. I’m a volunteer, so my ‘pay’ is that I don’t have to pay.”
Marmon has clearly taken Mayor Bieter’s charge to heart. Whether she is managing an in-plant or driving a van, she continually works to make Boise the “most livable city in the country.”
Related story: A Web-to-print Dream Fulfilled in Boise