Conversations With America NPR Home Page Initiatives Library Links Search Comments

Conversations with America Is Not Just Talk

by Kim Ainswsorth

January 11, 1999

Early in December, Diane LeBlanc, a director of the Greater Boston Federal Executive Board, was waiting to catch a flight at Logan Airport when a woman--let's call her "Sarah"--approached her. "Sarah" asked Diane what her Conversations with America button was all about.

Since Diane proudly dons her button wherever she goes, she provided Sarah with a general background of this reinventing government initiative and its premise. She explained that the President and Vice President asked federal workers to have conversations with our customers so we could continue to improve service--to produce results Americans care about.

Sarah responded, "Well, that cannot include the IRS." Diane said yes it did indeed include the IRS. She told her of all of the mechanisms in place to help the IRS customer, including Problem Solving Days and a toll free customer service number.

The woman went on to explain that her husband had died several years ago and she was aware that she owed the IRS money. She had called the IRS customer service line and, she said, was not treated very well. She was given a payment plan that was not conducive to her salary. She said that the IRS representative was unwilling to negotiate a different option because it was "her duty to repay the U.S. Government." As a result, several years had passed and she had not paid anything.

Diane immediately asked me to phone Sarah for more details and assist her with making the right connection. Since Sarah was clearly distressed by her problem, I linked her up with IRS District Office Director Bill Caine.

He called her and in less than one day was able to work out a payment schedule that met her needs !

This is a true Conversations with America success story.


Kim Ainswsorth is Executive Director of the Greater Boston Federal Executive Board. You may reach her at

NPR Home Page Search the NPR Site NPR Initiatives Site Index Calendar Comments Awards Links Tools Frequently Asked Questions Speeches News Releases Library Navigation Bar For NPR site