While the rest of the country worries about a double-dip recession, Mammoth continues to literally create jobs.
Approximately one year after slashing jobs, the Town of Mammoth Lakes is now hiring.
This time last year, the government agency was experiencing a high volume of layoffs, including upper management positions. Then Finance Director Brad Koehn and then Human Resources/Risk Manager Michael Grossblatt were let go as part of the process. Mammoth’s Council, knowing it could only go so long without department heads in Finance and Human Resources, approved a position back then called the Administrative Services Director to be filled at some point in the future. The position was expected to fold the Finance and Human Resources positions into one.
Enter Marianna Marysheva Martinez who came on board with the Town earlier this year as Interim Town Manager. One of the tasks assigned to her was analyzing staffing levels and needs. She determined that the Administrative Services Director position really needed to be broken into two positions: a Financial Analyst/Revenue Specialist and a Finance Clerk. Council approved these positions, and the salaries accompanying them, during budget discussions held in May.
Fast forward to this week. Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht presented a new option to Council at its regular meeting Wednesday night.
The recruitment process for the Financial Analyst/Revenue Specialist position produced a total of 10 responses. Of the two finalists, one was found to possess education, skills and abilities greater than those required by the Financial Analyst/Revenue Specialist position (including law and business degrees). Therefore, staff proposed that the position should be transformed into a “Budget and Information Technology Manager,” and the pay scale should be raised from the originally approved $60,000-$80,000 to $75,000-$95,000. The candidate would be offered $90,000 to come work for the Town.
According to Marysheva-Martinez, even though the pay scale was set at $60,000-$80,000, Council had approved $85,000 for the Financial Analyst/Revenue Specialist position, again back in May during budget discussions, so the difference between what was budgeted and what staff asked for on Wednesday was $5,000.
“You can include whatever you want if it fits in the budget,” Marysheva-Martinez told The Sheet. “Council approved $85,000 because we knew we would need money for recruitment expenses.”
Only Councilmember Skip Harvey took issue with the increase in salary.
“We can’t keep bringing people in at higher than anticipated wages,” Harvey said, after pulling the item from the Consent Agenda for further discussion. “If they don’t agree to the pay scale that is advertised then we shouldn’t waste our time interviewing them.”
Wilbrecht, however, defended the request. “We need someone with abilities comparable to Marianna’s because she is going to leave at some point. This candidate could have filled the original Administrative Services Director position from last fall, so I see it as a savings.”
Harvey, however, was also uncomfortable with the idea that the candidate would be receiving a higher wage right off the bat when other employees that have been with the Town for years have recently taken pay cuts while being burdened with a higher workload.
“Current staff is going above and beyond for less pay. If I were a current employee I’d be upset,” Harvey said. “You should have to prove yourself before getting a pay incentive. We’ve seen in the past that people can tell a great story during the interview process, but then don’t live up to expectations once hired. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
Harvey was also concerned that the new employee would be an executive, at-will position not represented by an employee union, and therefore may not be affected by potential future pay cuts that could result from the Hot Creek settlement.
“We need to rethink how we hire,” Harvey said, and in this particular case, he believed that staff should follow the guidelines that the Council originally put forth.
Wilbrecht, however, pressed on, apologizing to Harvey for being argumentative.
“Employees are looking for workload relief,” Wilbrecht said, implying that hiring another body would help. “The candidate has technology skills that can expand the capacity of the Town. Hiring someone with a higher capacity skill set allows you to get more in the long run.”
Harvey was still unconvinced. Mayor Jo Bacon, however, agreed that with technology becoming more important every day, having someone with technical abilities was a good idea.
The last question Harvey raised before Mayor Bacon called for the vote was where the Human Resources position had fallen with all of this? Wilbrecht explained that Human Resources had been retooled and both he and Senior Personnel Analyst Noreen Wilbur had taken on the responsibilities related to that title.
Council voted 4-1 (Harvey voted no) to hire the position of Budget and Information Technology Manager. The definition of the position presented in the staff report was as follows: the employee filling the position will “lead the development of the Town of Mammoth Lakes’ budget; provide revenue and expenditure forecasts for development of the Town’s budget and fiscal policies; provide analysis and recommendations on policy, managerial, operational, and budgetary issues affecting the Town; lead the Town’s efforts to ensure compliance and enforcement of revenue collection; and provide oversight of the Town’s information technology functions.” Also according to the staff report, the money saved in July and August when the position was still unfilled will cover the $5,000 increase in pay this year.
On Thursday The Sheet followed up with Marysheva-Martinez to find out the name of the candidate. Marysheva-Martinez was unwilling to provide the name until the person had officially accepted the Town’s offer.
The Finance Clerk position is also currently in the process of being filled, according to Wilbrecht.