Once upon a time, an unexpected divorce left Tameca White a single mom with four kids, a never-used degree, no professional work experience, and no home. Today, she has a master’s degree, an assortment of certifications, and a successful career in local government on her resume. In December, she earned a position she’s been working toward for almost a decade: county clerk. The appointment is doubly sweet for Tameca because she’s the first African American woman to hold the position in Fayette County, an honor she truly cherishes. But while the future looks bright now, the road to success was long and fraught with obstacles, a journey she says she made with the help of three things: hard work, helping hands, and faith.
Born in the small town of West Point, Mississippi, Tameca is the oldest of three girls. Her mother and one sister still live in Mississippi; her other sister, her four kids, and her new grandbaby, live in Georgia. She also has a half-brother and a stepbrother, who she simply considers her brothers. Interestingly, Tameca and her youngest sister share a birthday, as do Tameca’s two oldest children. Each of the pairs is five years apart.
Tameca’s high school class also carries a unique distinction: they were the first in the school’s history to hold fully integrated proms and other events, rather than separate events for white students and students of color.
“I actually had a very inclusive experience growing up,” Tameca says. “And my class was simply not interested in doing things separately. Our theme was ‘One Unit, We Shall Be’ and every class since has followed our lead. I’m very proud of that. But understand that I graduated in 1993. Unity was an important achievement, but it was a long time coming.”
Support from Tameca’s many friends and family became particularly important in her sophomore year.
“I had my first son at sixteen,” she explains. “And that, of course, was not the plan. But my mom was adamant. She sat me down and said ‘Okay, this happened. And maybe it’s not ideal, but it’s not going to stop you from doing what you want to do. This is your child and you’re going to raise him, but I’m going to help and you’re going to reach your goals.’”
Tameca graduated with her class and, though she didn’t get into her first-choice college, Ole Miss, a recruiter from DeVry convinced her to come to Georgia. As it happened, the recruiter had also talked to Tameca’s best friend earlier in the day, and both women had decided to take up the challenge. A month after graduation, Tameca packed up and headed to a brand-new state, where she found an apartment, earned a bachelor’s in business operations, and pursued her dreams.
“Everyone has moments that you remember as profoundly life-changing,” she says. “Choosing to move away from home was one of those for me.”
While in college, Tameca met her future husband and they married shortly after graduation.
“What’s funny,” she says, “is that my best friend and I ended up marrying brothers! So, we really did become family! Our children are cousins. How cool is that?”
For almost 10 years, Tameca stayed home with the kids while her husband worked. She did a little in-home daycare and event planning on the side, but felt good about putting her career on hold until all the kids were in school. Unfortunately, that plan didn’t go as anticipated, either; her youngest was four when her then-husband moved out, effectively ending the marriage.
“That was another of those life-defining moments,” Tameca admits. “I was stunned. I had a degree, but I’d never worked, not really. All the benefits were in his name, he was our sole source of income, and I had to figure out where to go because the next month’s rent was due.”
Tameca and her four children moved in with her sister and her four children. While space was tight, the move gave Tameca much-needed space to catch her breath.
“Honestly, I spent most of the first two months in shock,” she says. “I was in this perpetual state of ‘what just happened?’ It was a very dark place for a little while. But I had my family, my kids, my best friend, and my church family. I had my faith and my work ethic – and I still had goals. So, I pulled it together and, you know, I learned so much from the experience, about who I was and what I was capable of. I even filed my own divorce papers.”
She also began looking for a job and re-enrolled in school, eventually earning an MBA from the University of Phoenix.
“A friend from church called one day,” she recalls, “and said ‘There’s an opening for a receptionist at a local foster care agency. I want you to apply and then go in there and show them what you can do.’”
Not only did Tameca land the position, she was promoted to executive assistant to the president just 30 days later. And when the agency underwent downsizing shortly thereafter, Tameca’s hard work kept her on the payroll, although in a partial furlough two days a week.
“I really loved that job, and I am so grateful to have been given the chance,” Tameca says. “But after a while, I started wanting more responsibility than they could give me. A former colleague told me about an open position as executive assistant to the mayor and city manager in Union City. I said ‘I don’t know anything about government!’ And she said ‘Yes, but you can learn.’”
Once again, Tameca landed the job. In typical fashion, she went to work, focused on doing her absolute best and learning everything she could about local government. Two years later, in 2012, she became the assistant city clerk.
“That position really set me on my path,” she says. “They sent me to training and, the more I learned about what the office did, the more I realized that I wanted to be the clerk someday.”
Advancement came with its own difficulties, however. Although the move to Union City allowed Tameca to buy a house and a car, she was still feeling the effects of the previous furlough, which slashed her pay substantially, and led to the loss of both.
“Once again, I was essentially homeless,” she says. “But this time, I had a career path. I stayed with a friend for six months to get back on my feet, then I found an apartment and started building again. That was actually the greatest feeling because I knew then that, whatever happened, I could bounce back.”
In spring of 2013, she got a call from Steve Rapson, who had been her first boss in Union City and had since become Fayette’s county administrator. An opportunity had arisen and he felt she should apply. It meant a step back to executive assistant, but Tameca was willing to make the move and hoped she would be able to prove herself through the role. She did and, five months later, she became chief deputy assistant clerk under Floyd Jones.
Fun Facts about Tameca:
- First job:
- Favorite thing to do on Sunday afternoon: Hang with my family and friends watching football!! Falcons Rise Up!
- Top Bucket List item:
- To travel out of the country
- Favorite childhood book:
- Chocolate Fever by Robert Smith
- What do you collect?
- Anything Mickey Mouse
- Something you still want to learn:
- To drive a motorcycle
- Best present you’ve ever received?
- A handmade “happy birthday” sign glued
- to my wall from my kids.
- What do you do to relax?
- Calligraphy/ Brush lettering
- Favorite thing about Fayette?
- The people!
“Mr. Jones taught me so much,” she says. “The first thing he said is ‘Forget about thinking outside the box. There is no box.’ That was a huge revelation to me. Then he asked what I aspired to do and I told him I wanted to be county clerk. He said ‘Then we’ll make it happen.’ He always valued what I had to say, even if he had a different perspective. I will always appreciate that about him, because it really built my confidence.”
Life had another wrinkle in store for Tameca, however. For reasons no one has ever quite figured out, she permanently lost the hearing in one ear after a surgery in 2014.
“That was a huge adjustment, of course,” she says. “But it was just another obstacle to knock down.”
When Jones was tapped to become election supervisor, he suggested that Tameca replace him as clerk. He had support from the staff, the commissioners, and, of course, Rapson, but the county decided to list the position and go through a formal hiring process.
“I was all for posting the position,” Tameca says. “Yes, I wanted the job, but I wanted to know that I had competed against qualified, professional competition – and that I was the best choice.”
On December 16, the day before her birthday, she got the call: she’d been chosen. She took office the following week.
“To me, that phone call was really God saying ‘I got you’,” Tameca says. “I can look back on my life and see how God has worked perfectly, even when I thought things were falling apart.”
In addition to building experience, Tameca never stopped learning. She earned her county clerk certification from UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government in 2015. She’ll complete her master’s-level certification this month, and will finish the Institute’s management program this spring.
“When you want something, you have to go for it,” she says. “First off, do it. You don’t know if it’s for you if you don’t try it. I never thought this is where my career path would lead, but I absolutely love my job. Every day is something new, a new opportunity to learn and to help people. Second, don’t give up and don’t make excuses. If I can do it, you can do it. And don’t try to do it alone. Yes, I did the work and got the education, but I could not have gotten here by myself. Doors opened and people helped. Know that, when you start reaching your goals, you can give a hand up to others, too. That’s my plan.”
Tameca’s friends and family are proud, but unsurprised by her success.
“Tameca has always been a leader,” says mom Towanda Williams. “She’s always been willing to speak up, to do right, and to work hard to do the best she can. In spite of the obstacles, she’s done an amazing job as a mother, a friend, and an employee. She’s unstoppable.”
“She’s also completely genuine,” adds Yolanda White, Tameca’s best friend of more than 20 years. “What you see is what you get. I don’t think she’s ever met a stranger. And she’s incredibly resilient. It’s mindblowing to me to see how far she’s come and how much she’s gotten through. I can tell you this: if she gets knocked down, there is no question that she’ll get back up again. That’s what she does.”
Tameca’s supervisors agree completely.
“Tameca is the epitome of someone who has overcome,” says Rapson. “She’s a quality employee and I saw a lot of potential in her when I first interviewed her. But she’s also a genuinely good person and that shines through when she works with the public. I may have opened a couple of doors for her, but she’s built her reputation herself.
“Sometimes the county clerk is the first – or the only – person a member of the community communicates with,” he adds. “Tameca can develop a rapport with almost anyone because she really wants to solve their problems. She’s a true professional and she cares, about people, about the community, and about doing the job right. She always represents the county well.”
“My mom likes helping people,” agrees daughter Chrystn. “Not because it’s her job, but because that’s who she is. She’s worked really hard and I’m so proud of her. I want to be like her someday.”
Tameca is grateful for her position for a host of reasons, chief among them, her kids.
“You know, you never really know if your children are listening to you,” she says. “But when I told my kids about getting the job, my youngest daughter texted ‘You make me proud every day. I look up to you so much.’ That was the best reward right there. My kids have always been the reason I do what I do. I’ve realized, however, that I can do what I do for other people’s children, too. When I tell kids they can do whatever they want, they believe me because they can see that I’ve done it.