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School secretary by day, bail bondsman by night

By Staff
DOUBLE DUTY – Vanessa Collins works during the day as secretary at Magnolia Middle School and at night as a bail bondsman for A-1 Associates Bail Bond. Collins stresses the importance of a good education to students and her clients. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Oct. 7, 2002
Vanessa Collins is the first person many young people see when they go to school in the morning and the first person others see when they get out of jail in the middle of the night.
By day she is Mrs. Collins, the school secretary at Magnolia Middle School. At night she becomes Vanessa "Mac" Collins, bonding agent for A-1 Associates Bail Bond.
The two worlds don't involve the same people, but sometimes their problems and attitudes are the same. And sometimes their lives overlap.
For Collins, the dual roles are more than jobs. They are opportunities to encourage people to continue their education and motivate them to either stay on, or get on, the right path.
School secretary
Like many school secretaries, Collins asks sixth- and seventh-graders the question, "Honey, where are you supposed to be?" several times a day.
She writes the tardy slips for children who are late and assists parents, teachers and administrators.
She is the first person all school visitors and callers usually encounter as well as students who are sent to the principal's office for reasons both good and bad.
But sometimes the first point of contact at a school is where anger and frustration is vented. It's where ugliness surfaces and must be calmed not always from students, but from adults as well.
It's also where students find a friend in Collins.
Student help
Hallie Shirley, school counselor at Magnolia, said middle school students today are faced with a multitude of issues and problems.
Students at Magnolia are between the ages of 11 and 13. Collins said she loves them and understands it is a critical time in their life.
For students heading in the wrong direction, making bad choices and repeatedly getting into trouble, Collins offers a friendly warning: "If you don't straighten up here I'm afraid I'll be seeing you at my other job."
Bail bondsman
Collins works her "other job" without warning many times in the middle of the night when she gets a phone call from someone who has been arrested.
A-1 Associates Bail Bond posts bail for people who have been arrested allowing them to be released from custody. The company is responsible for that person arrested until their trial date.
Collins is part of a national trend that has seen an increase in women bail bondsmen breaking the old stereotypes of sloppy, cigar-smoking, tough guys even though she goes by nickname of "Mac."
Collins said she has mostly posted bond for young people who should have been seniors in high school or freshmen in college.
Charges range from driving without a license to drug possession, drunken driving and domestic violence. Nearly all of her clients have a substance abuse problem, she said.
Collins encourages her clients to go back to school.
Hard work
Ernie Brown of Little Rock is a bonding agent who works with Collins. He nicknamed her "Mac" short for Mario Andretti Collins after she drove him from one place to another in record time.
Brown credits that with Collins' school experience.
Brown said Collins can size-up a situation and diffuse it quickly. He said she also brings a high level of professionalism to the business.
Family life
Besides her work at school and as a bail bondsman, Collins, 46, is also a wife and mother.
She said her husband, Eugene, still isn't thrilled with her being a bonding agent. But she said he knows her well enough to understand that once she's made up her mind to do something she does it.
Collins and her husband have three grown children who also have expressed concerns about their mom's safety.
Collins is a Meridian native who retired from the banking business after 21 years. She returned to work briefly as an accounts payable clerk at City Hall, but quit because it was too boring.
Collins became secretary at Magnolia Middle School in March 2000 and a bonding agent in June. She even drives a limo for Berry &Gardner Funeral Home on the weekends.
She shares her bonding agent experiences with students to impress the importance of education. And she tells her clients at night they won't end up in jail if they have an education and apply themselves.