Parking enforcement supervisor adds education to enforcement
By Angela Nixon
It’s no secret that the parking enforcement officers (PEOs) are probably the most disliked group of people on Clemson’s campus. PEO supervisor Marvin Dixon is trying to change that.
Dixon has been working at Clemson for seven years, but he has been a Tiger by marriage for a lot longer than that. His wife is former Lady Tigers basketball standout Barbara Kennedy-Dixon, who is now associate athletic director and senior administrator for women’s sports.
The two were high school sweethearts in their hometown of Rome, Ga. After high school, Dixon was working in textiles at the West Point-Pepperell plant in Rome, but Barbara, who was then an assistant coach for Clemson’s women’s basketball team, wanted him to move to Upstate South Carolina. Dixon’s plant had been bought by Greenwood Mills, which also owned a plant in Liberty, so Dixon asked for a transfer to the Liberty plant so he could be closer to Barbara. There he entered the management training program and ended up staying at the plant for 17 years.
The textile industry started to suffer, with many jobs going to Mexico and other countries, so Dixon eventually had to seek other career options. He landed a job with Pindrum Staffing Services in Greenville, where he worked for three years managing the firm’s account with BMW.
After that, Dixon worked briefly for Mergon Industry in Anderson, but he soon decided another career change was in order.
“I had wanted to get on the staff at Clemson for a long time, so I was applying for lots of different jobs. I had been in management for so long, I was ready for a job where I could just come to work and do my job and not be responsible for so many things,” Dixon said.
He took a job as a PEO. But it wasn’t long before his management experience led him to taking on more responsibility than just writing parking tickets. He soon found himself training new PEOs, and he took this opportunity to change the way PEOs approach their jobs — to focus on education in addition to enforcement.
“We want to educate people about parking. That’s why people are here in the first place, to get an education,” Dixon said. “We want to communicate with people first, before we have to issue a ticket.”
Last year, Dixon became PEO supervisor, but that doesn’t mean he’s sitting behind a desk. He’s still out patrolling campus, responding to complaints and giving guidance to the PEO staff when needed. Dixon now mostly patrols the exterior lots in a parking services SUV, while the other PEOs have zones on the interior of campus that they patrol in parking services’ electric vehicles.
“I like for our officers to be visible and approachable so that people will ask for help,” Dixon said. “I tell them it’s about having conversations, not confrontations. Some people will try to be confrontational, but I try to turn that into a conversation.”
While the perception seems to be that PEOs are out to write as many tickets as they can, Dixon says their main job is to “keep things moving” in all parking areas so that everyone on campus is able to find a place to park.
He said the most common parking violation is parking over time in 30-minute spaces or metered spaces.
“The reason people get ticketed is that they are not using a parking space for its intended purpose, like when someone parks in a 30-minute space to go to a class that will obviously take longer than 30 minutes,” Dixon said. “Our job is to make sure that spaces are used properly so that everyone has an equal opportunity to park on campus. We’re the good guys, but nobody believes that.”
Dixon is always looking for new ways to communicate with students, faculty and staff so that everyone is aware of campus parking regulations. He has recently started speaking to incoming students at summer orientation sessions to offer them tips on campus parking.
“We would much rather teach people about the rules and regulations than to have people deal with the consequences of not knowing the rules,” he said.
Dixon, who was named a Student Affairs Employee of the Year for 2010-11, said his favorite part of the job is interacting with all types of people on campus.
“Some people say they have good ‘people skills.’ I go beyond that. I am fascinated with people,” he said.
Dixon said he thinks that the perception of PEOs at Clemson may be changing — slowly, but surely.
“We can be in a position that’s not necessarily liked, but we can be likeable people. That’s what I try to teach the officers,” he said.