Polk seeks new veterans director following retirement

Published 10:00 pm Friday, March 17, 2017

Push for full-time position voted down

COLUMBUS– Polk County is currently seeking a new veterans service director after the upcoming retirement of Darrel Moore.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met March 6 and discussed the possibility of making the position full-time instead of part-time.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Commissioner chair Tommy Melton was the only commissioner who wanted to make the position full-time and stressed the need to hire a replacement quickly so the new hire could train under Moore before Moore retires next month.

Melton said he lost his stepfather several years ago who was a veteran and he tried many, many times to get his stepfather into a facility that would take care of him.

“I believe he would have lived a longer life and had a better quality of life if we could have gotten him into a veteran’s facility,” Melton said.

Melton also said he goes to the Veteran’s Administration every year for a physical exam and it’s just impossible to get through the red tape.

“Moore has done a great job for veterans for 12 years,” Melton said. “We have approximately 2,000 veterans that reside in Polk County. It’s the largest per capita in the state. If you count wives and children, that’s 25 percent of our population. I just believe they need full-time care.”

Melton motioned for a full-time director and to advertise to fill the position as soon as possible but received no second.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson said his concern with moving forward with a full-time position now is that the county is striving for a revenue neutral budget for next fiscal year.

“The county manager has instructed all department heads to keep their budgets flat,” Gasperson said. “I don’t want to send the message to other county employees that we are making this decision.”

Gasperson said commissioners are doing everything they can to hold the upcoming budget in line, saying if the county could table the full-time decision and include it in the next budget and stay revenue neutral he’d seriously consider it.

Commissioners unanimously approved advertising for the same part-time position as soon as possible and came to a consensus to look at making the position full-time during upcoming budget preparations.

The county started advertising for the position this week.

During citizen comments, a few people spoke in favor of making the position full-time.

Otis Livingston said he has admiration for Moore and found him to be knowledgeable and helpful to veterans. He spoke of a recent widow calling after her husband died as she was not sure of his veteran benefits. Livingston said Moore answered her questions and comforted her with his knowledge and gave her the necessary paperwork. He said anyone can answer a phone but it takes a well-trained professional to deliver services that Moore does.

“I think this position cries for a full-time employee,” Livingston said.

Moore also spoke saying it’s not about him but about his successor. He said he’d like to see the position made full-time. Moore said he is currently working 32 hours per week and he doesn’t see much difference taking the position to 37.5 hours per week. He also said he’d like to see a pay increase for the next veterans service director, naming another county who recently hired someone just starting out who is making more than he made after 11 years on the job. Moore also stressed the need to hire a replacement soon as the state can only send someone for training one day per month. He said someone has to be on the job for over six months before they can qualify to take the exam necessary to do the job.

Bevin Corbin thanked Moore for his service and said local veteran organizations rely on Moore to put them in touch with local veterans.

“People like Darrel are usually the first contact we get to help that veteran,” Corbin said. “Full-time is not even enough time. Veterans call at all times. He’s getting calls late at night, I’m getting calls late at night. We may be the third smallest county in the state but we have the highest veterans per capita in the state.”

Corbin said he highly encourages commissioners to not only increase the time for a new veterans services director but also the pay, “because our veterans really depend on it.”