FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Since 1998, Donna Kukarola has been determined to bring the best value to Forsyth County from the Procurement Department.
Initially an employee of the county’s Engineering Division, she has always been interested and worked in the public works arena. She first got involved with the county when she heard about an engineering job and applied because it was close to her home. Then a few years later she took a risk and decided to switch to the Procurement Department.
“The joke was I have the last name of Kukarola and I won’t get hired because no one knows me,” she said. “Lo and behold, I was hired.”
Often procurement is thought of as “purchasing,” but it is something that Kukarola said is more transactional.
“It’s as if I buy a pen and I’m done with it,” she said. “It’s transactional. It’s one thing.”
Instead, she refers to the process as “from womb to tomb.”
“We hope to be strategic partners with our departments to be there from the beginning and work through the whole project, process or whatever we’re doing until the very end,” she said. “We like to think of procurement as the whole process.”
She said she enjoys how much of a challenge the job can be and often gets looks from people that say, “You have to be crazy.”
“You’re balancing your departments, contractors and suppliers,” Kukarola said. “The ultimate goal for any of us on my team is the best value for the county. We want to get the right service or item at the right time and right price.”
She enjoys helping her departments get what they need in a more efficient manner and at a lower cost to the county. She also enjoys working with the contractors as they grow and learn how to do business with the government agency.
Some of the most exciting projects that are intangible include a public safety software venture the county is currently working on.
“That’s a huge project,” Kukarola said. “It goes from the Sheriff’s Office to the Fire Department to the E-911 Center. It is so multi-faceted. You get all these people together and talking and going toward a common goal. It is exceptionally satisfying to me.”
She said she can’t take total credit for that, but it’s still rewarding to be part of the big picture. She also credits a lot of the department’s success to the staff. She said she and her team are open to answering questions from any citizen. Often, people don’t realize there are many local, state and federal laws and regulations the department has to follow.
“I try to make it as less bureaucratic as possible,” Kukarola said. “But we are government. I have to follow the guidelines or we won’t get the money. So it’s important.”
Even with all the rules, she is still enthusiastic about her job.
“In the end I really do feel that we are providing a very good service to the county as a whole,” Kukarola said. “To the county government itself and to the citizens. I live in this county, too.”
However, she and her department do find it challenging at times because they deal with a lot of different people with differing opinions.
“I try to listen to it all, but I still have to make my recommendation based on all the information I have,” she said. “My job is that the (Board of Commissioners) have all the information they need to make an informed decision.”