Two of Weber County’s three commissioners recently hired personal administrative assistants at very attractive hourly rates, creating a buzz among merit employees who get paid less but enjoy more job security than their politically appointed counterparts.
According to Comptroller Dan Olsen one of the new hires makes $18 per hour, the other $20.
“We’ve had some people concerned about the $20 per hour. The secretary I recently hired in my office makes $12.50 per hour,” said Brad Dee, director of the county’s human resource department.
However, in their new roles the two women now serve as “at-will employees who could lose their jobs tomorrow,” Dee said. “Should the commissioner retire or leave office, these people would probably leave too.”
Newly elected Commissioner Matt Bell hired Brooke Stewart away from her merit position as office manager for the Weber County Sheriff’s department. Commissioner Kerry Gibson, now starting his third year on the job, hired Paige Greenhalgh, who had been working as a victim advocate in the county, also a merit or career services position.
Gibson, elected as a commissioner in November of 2010, retained the services of Shirley Jensen during his first two years in office. Jensen had served as former Commissioner Ken Bischoff’s administrative assistant for 12 years before Gibson took office.
With the hire of Greenhalgh, Jensen transferred into a newly created merit position in the Children’s Justice Center, taking a cut in pay.
“Shirley did a great job, but for me to move forward I needed to make a change,” Gibson said. “I had known Paige, I knew she worked for the county, and I was impressed with her. When I had the opportunity to bring her on, I thought it was a great idea.”
Both Gibson and Bell view their new assistants’ roles as extending beyond secretarial duties.
“We serve on many boards and organizations,” Bell said. “If I can’t make some of those meetings, she’ll go in my place. She may even represent me in the community on different things.
Dee said that $20 per hour is within the realm of reasonable pay for a chief deputy, and that each commissioner could hire both an administrative assistant and a chief deputy if they so chose.
Jan Zogmaister, who was elected to the commission in 2006, described herself as “really budget-conscious.” So far, she has not hired either.
“I felt there was enough staff in the office already,” Zogmaister said. “I have a staff person who works part-time for me and part-time for the economic development director.” The commission office also has a full-time administrative coordinator.
According to Olsen, Bell’s new hire increased the commission budget by $53,492, and the county also pays $55,402 to fund wages and benefits for the new Children’s Justice Center position. The total $108,894 increase came out of the county’s general fund reserves, Olsen said.
Weber County currently employs about 800 full-time employees, Olsen said, along with several seasonal and part-time workers.