County officials said they want a qualified Human Resources director to lead a new department for Sampson, and are willing to relax residency requirements and go well beyond Sampson’s borders in order to find that person and attract them here.
As a result of the budget reduction process, the Sampson Board of Commissioners approved the establishment of a Human Resources department and the hiring of a HR director. In recent months, county administrative staff researched how such departments are structured in other counties, as well as duties and responsibilities of those directors, ultimately assigning the new Sampson position with a grade 80 — salary ranging from a minimum of $60,040 to a maximum of $98,664.
“After consultation with human resources directors in surrounding counties, it is recommended that successful recruitment of a candidate with specific experience in local government human resources would be assisted by being as flexible as possible on the county’s existing residency requirement for department heads,” county manager Ed Causey told commissioner this week.
As the requirement has been formally in place for the last few years — and informally for years before that — staff sought the board’s concurrence in moving forward.
“This is going to be a new department for us and it is important to find the right person to give the county guidance, particularly as we are establishing the office,” Causey noted. “Hopefully we can get somebody in the county who has the experience, but you have some significantly-sized counties, Cumberland and Johnston, (from which) we can be in a good position to attract some candidates to at least consider applying for the job.”
Prior to the hiring of Animal Shelter director Alan Canady at the beginning of 2013, the residency requirement was an unwritten policy. When he was selected for the position, his residency located just over the county line was an oversight. However, to correct the error and formalize the unwritten policy, the board adopted an amendment to its Personnel Resolution in March 2013, formalizing the informal policy.
The amendment states in part that department heads “will be required as a condition of employment to establish and maintain their actual bona fide residence within the boundaries of the county within 12 months of the date of their regular employment or appointment to a department head position.”
Any exceptions would be at the discretion of the Board of Commissioners.
“To my knowledge, all of our current department heads are county residents,” said Assistant county manager Susan Holder, noting that the county’s residency policy, while considered by other boards, might not necessarily apply to some of Sampson’s 21 department heads.
Causey said all 21 department heads are important, but the HR director is going to have contact with all of them and needed to be well-qualified for the tasks at hand.
“I would like to find somebody that has a lot of years of experience that might be interested in coming over. There is always the possibility that these people could potentially be entrenched where they are and not want to sell a house. I would hate to miss out on a candidate, especially during this first round of hiring,” Causey stated. “I think we do a good job with the resources we have at the present time, but we need a level of expertise that can really offer us a lot of guidance over the next several years.”
Commissioner Clark Wooten agreed with the move.
“It’s sort of like fishing,” Wooten said. “You want to cast your net as broad as you can when you’re looking for a specialized skill-set. Plus, you’re looking for the best and brightest. I would be in favor of two things — removing the residency limit for this position and, if you really want to get right down to it, I’d be in favor of removing it (entirely).”
“We want the best we can get,” Commissioner Harry Parker concurred. “I think we need to think out of the box on this one.”
Wooten said “human capital” is the most valuable and toughest to come by, and restricting that commodity is not the answer.
“I think we need to not limit ourselves,” Wooten remarked. “I would personally recommend we remove it. I just don’t like limiting ourselves. I’m in favor of casting a broad net, so to speak.”
Causey said the request on the table was only for the HR position.
“Why don’t we just look for someone in the county, and if we can’t find them we’ll broaden that net,” Chairman Billy Lockamy offered. “I think it’s going to make our department heads feel kinda bad if we go the other way. We have some good department heads who do an excellent job, and we want to keep them. I can see Ed’s side and everyone else’s side, but I think we need to keep what we have.”
Holder and Finance officer David Clack said that could result in limited applicants and cost more money due to advertising for the position multiple times once the search is expanded.
“It could work out that we get someone from Sampson County,” Commissioner Sue Lee noted.
Wooten made the motion to advertising the HR director position without a county residency requirement, quickly seconded by Parker. The vote came 3-1, with Lockamy casting the dissenting vote.
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