EVERETT — The “Employee of the Year” at the courthouse gives some people a fright.
Others get a laugh.
What’s up with that?
It’s Trevor/Trudy, a he-she skeleton who sits at the front desk behind the glass partition at the Snohomish County District Court office.
Right now she’s Trudy, dressed in a frilly spring dress and bonnet. Other times he’s Trevor, wearing thrift shop suits tailored with binder clips and safety pins to fit his skinny physique.
This office on the third floor is where people go for traffic fines, small claims and some misdemeanors.
It’s not always the happiest place. The fake worker with the real name tag lightens up the mood.
County employee Jewel Shrout, 26, created Trevor to sit in the empty chair next to her last October for Halloween. She bought the life-sized skeleton at Home Depot for $25 and dressed him in a shirt and tie.
“People had a lot of fun with him, so I asked if he could stay up past Halloween,” Shrout said.
Permission was granted.
“It’s a way for us to bring a smile to people here for such serious issues,” said Lauren Bjurstrom, district court administration director.
Shrout said it “diffuses a lot of tension on the opposite side of the glass.”
“About 50 percent of the time people aren’t super happy,” she said. “Or they might come in happy and you have news they don’t like to hear. Or fines they don’t know about. Or warrants they don’t know about. Or that they have to pay $100 at DOL to get their license back. It kind of makes them stop for a second. It changes the frame of mind a little bit; it has helped in that aspect.”
It also helps the public feel at ease with the flesh-and-blood workers.
“I don’t think a lot of people think we are human up here,” Shrout said. “We’re not there to penalize them. We have no power to do anything. We just process paperwork. A paper pusher is essentially what we do.”
Shrout and another worker are stationed at the front window. Trevor/Trudy is in the middle, posed to serve — with an Employee of the Year certificate to prove it.
“Most walk up and look up and realize, ‘Nope, doesn’t work,’ ” she said. “One person laughed for three minutes.”
A few have needed intervention.
“He was in normal clothes and glasses and someone did walk up and just started talking to him,” Shrout said. “I said, ‘No, you need to come over here,’ and he kept going on. So I said, ‘It’s not a real person.’ And he’s like, ‘I am a real person.’ I said, ‘I know. I get that. But he’s not. You need to come one more down.’ ”
The skeleton was Mrs. Claus for Christmas. Then it was Trevor again. Now it’s Trudy for Easter. Who knows what’s next?
“It’s fun to go to the thrift store to see what ridiculous things I can find,” Shrout said.
She said she chose the names Trevor and Trudy at random. They bear no resemblance to any skeletons she may have in her closet. Not that she has any.
Shrout’s family owns Fanny’s Restaurant in Marysville. She graduated from the University of Washington with degrees in Spanish and Japanese, then cleaned city buses when she went back to school to get a paralegal degree. She started working for the county last May.
Kamal Abou-Zaki, an Oregon court interpreter, got a kick out of Trudy on a recent visit to the office.
“I walked in and went straight to that window and I was surprised,” he said.
Trudy also has a social media following. “A government worker with a sense of humor? Yes, please,” is the caption under a recent Instagram post.