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Saturday, Mar 28, 2015

County reduces job standards


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BROOKSVILLE - Hernando County has rewritten the job description for the utilities operations manager position and removed the requirement that the applicant possess a bachelor's degree.

Administrative Services Director Cheryl Marsden said only 12 people applied and two of those met the qualifications.

The revised description gives applicants the option of having a bachelor's degree or an associate degree with 10 years experience in the field.

That attracted two applicants, both of whom already work for the utilities department: William "Josh" Martin, water district foreman, and Richard Drumheller, a storekeeper for the utilities department.

Martin and Drumheller currently make annually salaries of $48,131 and $23,545, respectively.

Marsden said she changed the descriptions at the request of Director of Environmental Services Susan Goebel-Canning and her supervisor, Assistant County Administrator for Operations Brian Malmberg.

The simplifying of the educational requirements flies in the face of a directive set forth in June by county commissioners, who said they were tired of filling positions with under-qualified people.

County Commissioner Nick Nicholson said he was told by Goebel-Canning that there was a person on staff who could do the job, had some college courses under his belt and was willing to pursue a degree.

Nicholson said that would satisfy him and he doesn't think the county is intentionally trying to "dummy down" the requirements.

He stands by a statement he made in June that all future government hires should have the proper educational credentials for the job.

Nicholson said he would expect that the county did its due diligence and advertised statewide and possibly nationally before deciding to revise the qualifications.

But that was not the case.

Marsden said the original advertisement was posted on the Hernando County website, at Career Central and at area colleges. The ad did not appear in any state or national trade association magazines or websites, according to the county human resources department.

The Hernando County website only drew an average 28,890 visits during July, August and September, according to data supplied by Public Information Manager Virginia Singer. The number of unique visitors averaged 12,690. Singer said the number of online visitors who visited the employment page on the website was not tracked.

The new position has a pay range of $65,748 to $105,995.

Marsden said she reviewed the revised description and saw no concerns.

"This is one of those jobs where experience could be more important than a degree," she said.

The position opened up after Jesse Goodwin, the former assistant utilities director, retired. His job title was changed and his work description reworked.

Commissioner Wayne Dukes said he wants to know how aggressively the county advertised for the position, especially with it being such a high-level management position.

"Once you get into the upper-level management, you definitely have to throw a wide net or you're not going to get many applications," Dukes said.

However, Dukes said a person with a two-year associate degree may fit the bill, if he or she has the requisite experience: For example, Goodwin didn't have a degree but his experience more than made up for it.

But Dukes said the problem then becomes setting a precedent, and other managers will stop seeking four-year degrees and substitute experience for education.

Hernando County's revised job description asks that the applicant possess a bachelor's degree and have seven years experience in all phases of utilities system management, operations, maintenance and construction activities.

In lieu of that, applicants must have a two-year associate degree and 10 years experience. Some college credit courses and the willingness to obtain an associate degree within two years of obtaining the position will be required, the description said.

Whoever gets the job will be in charge of planning, operations administration, management and training of Hernando County's water, wastewater and reclaimed water utility systems.

The person will also oversee the operations of mosquito control.

Pasco County is seeking to fill a similar position and its job description calls for a bachelor's degree and three years experience. A comparable amount of "directly related experience may be substituted at the county's discretion for the minimum education requirements," the Pasco ad states.

Pasco's salary range for the position is $67,400 to $104,219.

Assistant County Administrator for Operations Brian Malmberg said he plans to meet with Goebel-Canning when she returns from vacation and go over Martin and Drumheller's qualifications.

They will decide whether to move forward with those in-house candidates or possibly re-advertise the position.

Goebel-Canning could not be reached for comment.

(352) 544-5290

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