Polk to discuss creating assistant county manager position

Published 6:15 pm Sunday, February 16, 2014

With permanent Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson returning to his position on March 10, commissioners plan to discuss creating a new position of assistant county manager/CIO/personnel manager/human resources officer.

Commissioners meet Monday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. in the upstairs meeting room of the Womack building in Columbus.

In the county’s meeting packet released last week, there is a letter from interim county manager Marche Pittman, which discusses the need for the new
duties, a job description for the new position and a budget amendment to fund the position from March 10 until the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

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The budget amendment is proposed to take $16,497 from emergency management salaries and $12,942 from MIS salaries for a total of $29,439 to fund the proposed new position salary from March 10 until June 30.

The total annual base salary amounts to $76,469 and including benefits equals $96,077, according to the county finance office.

Whitson’s salary, following this year’s 2.5 percent increase is $80,799 base pay and $101,433 including benefits.

Whitson previously made a $78,000 base salary plus a three percent 401k contribution for Army Reserve benefits. Pittman’s base salary as interim county manager is approximately $80,000, according to the finance office.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the time you have given me in the position as interim county manager,” states Pittman’s letter to commissioners. “I have learned a great deal over the past year and I know the time will change me for the good forever. The fact that you had enough confidence in me to allow me to step into the role means more than any of you will ever know. We haven’t always agreed on everything, but we have always had open and supportive dialogue, and that is critical to a person in the manager role. We have accomplished a lot in the past year and I am proud to have been a part of it.”

Pittman goes on to say that during his time as interim manager, it has become apparent to him that there is a significant need for a personnel manager. Polk County currently has 13 full-time and 103 part-time employees as well as contracted employees, Pittman said, “and the demands on the manager as personnel manager can be demanding.”

He said some things in the policy are being neglected or overlooked and he has spoken to Whitson and county attorney Jana Berg who are both in agreement that this position is necessary. Pittman quoted Whitson, who has been on military leave since December 2012, in his letter, “I feel that Polk County government is large enough to justify an assistant county manager. It will give the county manager the assistance to enable him/her, along with the assistant, to get more in depth into the departments and the services they provide. The savings obtained from more in depth management should more than make up for the cost of the position, and improve services. Having this person be the human resources officer, which the county manager had assumed also, allows for the management of personnel more in line with the personnel manual.”

Berg also endorses the position, according to Pittman’s letter.

“I would like to offer my wholehearted endorsement to the addition of the proposed position,” Pittman quoted Berg as saying. “I was most especially pleased to learn that the proposed position may include managing human resources. If you recall, when I first came on board with the county I was surprised to learn that the county did not already have such a position on staff. It has been my experience that human resources professionals serve to provide many functions that are invaluable to employers. They are integral to the processes of assessing manpower needs, developing job descriptions and modifications, recruitment and training, and performance appraisals to name but a few. They also manage workplace disputes and are key to developing good employer/employee relationships. It is my hope that the county will create this position and I feel confident that should such a position be created the county will be greatly benefitted.”

Pittman ends his letter saying he and Whitson prepared a job description for the position for commissioners’ review.

“Ryan and I would like to recommend that we hire an assistant manager/CIO/personnel manager for Polk County,” Pittman said. “This position would be funded in the current year by savings in the salary line of the emergency management department and the MIS department. We do not have to dip into fund balance for this position.”

It is not stated whether or not the county will advertise for the new position, if commissioners decide to create it. The agenda item states, “Proposed Assistant County Manager Position – To consider creating a new Assistant County Manager position.”

According to the N.C. Institute of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill, approximately 50 of the state’s 100 counties employ an assistant county manager. Nearby Rutherford County, with a population of 63,424, does not have an assistant county manager, while Henderson County, population 108,448, does employ an assistant county manager.

Most counties, particularly ones larger than Polk County, have a human resources department or director.

There are 16 counties in North Carolina smaller in population than Polk County, according to the N.C. Institute of Government with four counties, Bertie (20,653); Greene (21,000); Madison (21,178) and Warren (20,000) being about the same size as Polk (20,000).

Bertie county has a county manager, no assistant and no human resources director, Greene County currently has an interim manager, no assistant and a human resources department, Madison County has a county manager, an assistant to the county manager for government relations and a payroll/benefits coordinator within its finance office and Warren County has a county manager, no assistant and a human resources department, according to each county’s website.

Commissioners are also scheduled tonight to discuss a proposal from Robert Williamson with Strategic Work Systems Inc. who currently has a $6,000 contract to consult with the county in creating an economic development policy and strategic plan.

The proposal included in the county’s packet is to extend Williamson’s consulting work through June at a discounted retainer of $3,000 per month for 40 to 60 consulting/facilitating hours per month.

A proposed budget amendment includes transferring $15,000 from the economic development department’s line item grants to professional services.

Commissioners will also review the Green River watershed study with Altamont Environmental.