With hiring freeze, county makes most of work force
By LE ROY STANDISH
For the past six months, Mesa County has been without a full-time emergency management director.
But it does have a person filling the role. Kimberly Bullen, senior management analyst for the county, took over the role of emergency manager — and retained all of her old job duties — when the former emergency manager, Chadd Searcy, stepped down.
“When we are all being asked to cut our budgets, it made sense to fill that gap without hiring a new person at this time,” Bullen said. “Although we are approaching it this way (in the short term), we are also looking to fill these positions maybe in this way in the long term as well.”
The county is learning to do more with less. Because the county has frozen the net number of jobs, when an employee leaves the county, the position is not filled unless absolutely necessary. The county also froze pay raises in May.
Exceptions to the hiring freeze are the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department and the Criminal Justice Services.
Stefani Conley, assistant county administrator, said the change in the economy is changing county staffing levels. County departments that have open slots for employees, but also diminished workloads because of the economy, are transferring those open employment slots to county departments that can use extra help.
In addition, departments that have extra workloads but are unable to get more warm bodies for help are transferring some of their work to other departments, Conley said.
Conley said the county has a 3.8 percent employee vacancy rate and 1,008 total employees who work full time, part time and seasonally, which translates to 990 full-time positions.
“We are looking at revenues being down and still needing to provide levels of service,” Bullen said.
Another example of transferring positions can be seen at Mesa County Public Works, where the county could not hire as many employees as it needed during the boom times. Now, Public Works Director Pete Baier is supervising a department with half the number of positions it had a year ago. The extra positions were transferred to the Mesa County Department of Human Services, which needed help with welfare claims.
“We don’t have the kind of building going on like we did a year-and-a-half ago where they couldn’t keep up with developments,” Bullen said.
The transfer of positions should not be confused with an actual exchange of warm-blooded employees.
“There are not a whole lot of people being transferred around. A lot of what is being done is being done with vacant positions,” Bullen said. “I think there may have been a couple of situations where they had an actual individual transferred to a different job.”
For the foreseeable future, the county will continue with its recruit from within and multihat employment.
“Tough economic times requires us to think differently and creatively,” Bullen said.
“Dollars are flexible and can be put where people in the community need them most.”