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Celebrating The NNA’s 2016 March Fong Eu Achievement Award Recipient: Automobile Club Of Southern California

Auto Club 2016 March Fong Eu Award recipient

(Originally published in the June 2016 issue of The National Notary magazine.)

The story of the Automobile Club of Southern California is one of a commitment to excellence no matter the era. The organization, founded in 1900, has earned a reputation as a steady, trusted public “servant,” so it makes sense that they would pour considerable time and effort into supporting their own Notaries, who have been there for many a family’s milestones — first cars, first mortgages, first passports. In 2002, the Auto Club decided to start offering Notary services to better serve its members. At the time, the Auto Club employed approximately 300 Notaries. Today there are more than 800 Notaries in 89 branches in California, New Mexico and Hawaii.

(Pictured: Jennie Castro (center left) and Tari Cody (center right) of the Auto Club accepting the 2016 March Fong Eu Award in Anaheim, California.)

Commitment to Notaries

The Auto Club dedicates significant resources to make sure its Notaries are on top of every new legal development at a time when regulations are constantly evolving. That commitment was solidified in 2011 when Branch Operations administrators launched a comprehensive program to better support and better care for the Notaries who work for them.

The program, dubbed Centralized Notary Administration, tracks everything from commissions and education requirements to new Notary laws that may affect day-to-day operations. The Auto Club’s efforts have resulted in a Notary force that is supported, educated and ready to serve members who come to their branches needing help with urgent paperwork that could make or break a home purchase or a trip overseas. It hasn’t been easy, but organizing and streamlining the complex process has been worth it, said Tari Cody, Sales and Service Manager, Branch Operations Administration.

Because of the Auto Club’s innovative program, its dedication to notarial excellence, and its recognition of the special role Notaries play in the everyday lives of Americans, it has been selected as the recipient of the National Notary Association’s distinguished March Fong Eu Achievement Award for 2016, which was presented at NNA 2016 Conference in Anaheim, California, earlier this month.

“We are proud to honor the Auto Club of Southern California for its innovative program, its dedication to excellence and its recognition of the special role Notaries play in the everyday lives of Americans,” said Tom Heymann, NNA President and Chief Executive Officer. “What the Auto Club has accomplished is incredible and shows how much they value providing Notary services to their members.”

The award, inaugurated in 1979, is given to an individual or group that has done the most to improve the standards, image, and effectiveness of the office of Notary Public. The award is named for its first recipient — California Secretary of State March Fong Eu — whose accomplishments in service to Notaries set a high standard by which all subsequent nominees for the honor are measured.

A History of Service

The Auto Club of Southern California serves nearly 7 million members in Southern California. The organization has always grown with the times and risen to the unique challenges each decade posed. When Auto Club member service specialists first started offering Notary services, they were not sure how much of an impact it would make. But it quickly became apparent that their members genuinely valued the service — and needed it.

Cody recalled a time when a member came into a branch an hour before it closed, with real estate documents that needed to be notarized. Initially, the Notary thought the job might be easy, but quickly realized that the inter-state transaction involved different state laws. The Notary stayed late, and with the help of the NNA Hotline, figured out the correct notarization procedure.

Providing this level of service has become such an important benefit of membership that entry-level member service employees who want to be promoted must first become Notaries. As the Auto Club added more Notaries, it became clear to management that they needed to create a formal program to maintain a high level of professionalism and excellence. As a result, in 2011, the organization launched the Centralized Notary Administration program to coordinate all the commissioning and education requirements for its Notaries. It also facilitates continuing education, communication and support among Notary staff.

Dana Masale and Debbie Schmideche, who work at the Auto Club’s Poway branch, said the staff focuses on supporting one another because of the great responsibility involved in notarizations. “Being a Notary can be challenging, but you just take each document one at a time, and learn how to manage the situation...and organize it properly,” Schmideche said.

And if they encounter a challenging request, they get on the phone with the NNA Hotline, and then make sure to share the knowledge with the whole office so everyone learns. TThey handle everything from grant deeds to consent forms for minors to travel.​ Schmideche said some of the most difficult documents to handle are those related to someone’s death. “Having someone (come in) who has lost someone who is close to them, like a child — you have to be delicate with them and the situation.”

“I think members know they can come in here and trust us; we have a good history,” Masale said. “It’s comfortable; we’ve helped them before.”

The Auto Club is like having a good friend in your back pocket, and that friend just happens to come with a dedicated public servant who is willing to stay late until she gets the job done.

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Honoring Tom Wrosch, The NNA’s 2016 March Fong Eu Achievement Award Recipient

Additional Resources:

List Of March Fong Eu Achievement Award Recipients

View All: NNA News

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