Five questions with Kenny Cook

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Kenny Cook is director of human resources for Aiken.

1. What is the city of Aiken's Character First initiative?

It's a program where we encourage the teaching of character. The mayor (Fred Cavanaugh) was very instrumental years ago in getting this in the schools in Aiken. We have character training among our employees once a month. It's the fourth Thursday of the month and it's open to all of our employees, but it's also open to members of the public who are interested in character training and character education.

2. What is the objective of the city's initiative?

Each month we have someone come in who gives a class on that month's character trait. Each month, there's a different one. We think it's a good thing among our employees and for businesses.

There's a lot of things today that you hear about the lack of ethics in the workplace. That's why we're trying to encourage good character, which translates into good ethics.

3. Where did the idea for a citywide character initiative come from?

The mayor went to a conference some years ago that was speaking about this. And he just thought it was such a great thing and he brought it back and talked it up with local leaders and the schools and different things. And he just started encouraging it and worked real hard to develop it and get people interested in it.

4. How do the citizens of Aiken benefit from this?

What we have seen, and we think it's a multitude of things that may have attributed to this, we've seen a 25 percent reduction in absenteeism over the last several years. We think it's a combination of encouraging people to be honest and exhibit good character. That's part of it. We think it's also the wellness program that we have where we encourage people to be more healthy.

We think the character program helped. Made people realize the importance of honesty, the importance of availability, and dependability. We think that maybe that had an impact.

5. What character qualities does the city focus on?

Dependability, determination, forgiveness, enthusiasm, flexibility, punctuality, resourcefulness, sensitivity, thoroughness - that's just some of them. One is tackled a month.


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