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County looking to fill staffing vacancies

Prince Edward County Administrator Doug Stanley has been on the job for only about two-and-a-half months and is already facing the challenge of hiring some key people to replace departing or retiring county employees.

Doug Stanley

Kate Pickett, Prince Edward County’s director of economic development and public information officer, departed Dec. 23 to become the Enterprise Zone program administrator for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

Then more recently, Prince Edward County Tourism Coordinator Magi Van Eps and her husband, Ron Van Eps, the county’s public works director, announced they would be retiring Feb. 5. Magi had worked for the county for 14 years, and Ron had worked for Prince Edward for more than 13 years.

Stanley said the county misses Pickett and is going to miss Ron and Magi.

“Ron had been here and, of course, had been driving the train on the courthouse renovation project and intimately involved in that,” Stanley said.

Stanley noted that last year, the county hired two individuals to help Ron with public works. Randy Cook was named the county’s building and grounds supervisor, and Jeff Jones was hired to become the county’s solid waste director.

“Randy and Jeff have a great handle on their respective areas of responsibility,” Stanley said, but he has come to the conclusion that the county needs more employees in public works moving forward.

“I’ve gotten a lot of complaints about conditions at some of our compactor sites,” he said. “We’ve had some employees that have been out for COVID, and we struggle with trying to keep up with hauling leachate to the town sewer plant. Of course, they’re treating the leachate for us from the landfill — that’s the water that filters through the landfill that we collect. And that has to be hauled, and the person that does that hauling has to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL).”

Stanley noted Ron has a CDL.

“He’s been having to backfill when we’ve had people out for normal stuff, whether it’s a doctor’s appointment or leave but then now with COVID when people have been out,” Stanley said. “So, a guy that’s making over $90,000 a year is driving a truck, and it’s a position that’s significantly less. So I think one of the things that I’ve realized that is going to help me base my recommendation to the board (Feb. 9) is that to replace Ron, I really need a couple more boots on the ground.”

This will include a machine operator, Stanley said, who can help both at the landfill and with taking care of the county’s individual convenience sites, the trash sites, being able to grade them and make sure they are taken care of and managed.

He said the county also needs to hire a full-time driver to help with hauling leachate and helping at the landfill as well.

“I think that’s going to be my recommendation going into the February (board) meeting is I need bodies, but I really need two,” Stanley said.

He said the county will be essentially splitting public works right now between Cook and Jones, but hiring the machine operator and full-time driver will be priorities.

“We need to get it done sooner than later just because, again, every day, people are trying to throw their trash away,” Stanley said. “We need to get things done at the landfill, and what that causes is additional overtime and comp time because you’re having to work existing staff. Things have to get done on a daily basis whether you have additional staff there or not.

“We had another opening in the solid waste department,” he continued. “We’ve already been advertising.”

He said he told staff that as they go through the interview process for that one, they should keep an eye out if some other candidates qualify, allowing the county to move forward with a hire sooner rather than later.

The new public works hiring will probably need to be augmented with some project management at the Prince Edward County Courthouse, Stanley said, possibly on a part-time basis to help with some remaining projects.

“We’ve still got to redo the parking lot here,” Stanley said. “We’re looking at a phone replacement project. Our phone system is out of date, and they don’t make parts for it anymore. So we’ve got a handful of those types of projects to manage as well.”

He said the county is currently advertising for a county director of finance.

“I’ve got a tremendous amount of budget experience, but I’m not an accountant,” Stanley said. “I’m not a (Certified Public Accountant).”

Also, the decision has been made to combine Pickett’s economic developer role with Magi’s tourism coordinator role to create a position called the director of economic development and tourism and grants.

“About 10 years ago that position was combined before, so it’s not completely a new concept,” Stanley said.

The county is also advertising that position.

There is more leeway as to when these two director positions will be filled, but Stanley is still applying some urgency.

“Obviously, for both of those, I’d like to get them filled as soon as possible,” he said. “I know we’ve started to get some applications in. Not enough. I’m hoping maybe another week or 10 days is enough that where we’d have enough to be able to sit down and have an interview cycle.”