With the cold snow blowing outside, the Taylor County Personnel committee meeting got a bit heated at times Wednesday. With the recent resignation of the county’s Veterans Service Officer, the committee approved Marie Albers as acting head of the office with a pay raise of $3 per hour.
About a dozen veterans were in attendance to show their support for the veterans service officer position. Dave Krug spoke indicating that as a veteran, he felt that while the job is important, the work load doesn’t justify a full time position. He said there was documented evidence which couldn’t be released now, which indicates we don’t need a full time veteran’s service officer. He told the group that Administrative Assistant Marie Albers does the bulk of the work.
Marie Albers was asked for her opinion and she indicated that a part time Veterans Service Officer possibly would be part time committed to our veterans. She said that in 2012 veterans assistance programs provided in excess of $3 million to vets in Taylor County.
Lester Lewis asked Ms. Albers if the office staff was cut to 1.5 positions, who would be part time, the officer or assistant. Marie Albers replied the veterans deserve a full time officer advocate. But she didn’t think it was fair to ask her to cut her position.
Chuck Zenner indicated he felt the veterans office could operate with 1.5 positions, with Marie fulltime and the Officer half time, until Marie retires then the service officer would be full time and assistant half time.
Ray Soper expressed frustration indicating it’s wrong to base job descriptions on current staff capabilities. He said the first job of the officer is to be an advocate for veterans. Soper felt the county needs a full time veterans service officer.
Scott Mildebrand said eventually the office will be 1.5, best served by a full time V.S.O. and part time assistant.
Bob Lee told the committee it’s tough to get an advocate for injured veterans. He said, "when you’re strong and capable to march, they take good care of you, but when you’re injured, they don’t care so much". Mr. Lee continued, "this is not a position to cut, when you make a decision, consider who you’re affecting".
An Iraq veteran addressed the group indicating he spent 2 years in Iraq and has recently learned he has a heart condition. He said, "if you cut the position, where will I go"?
The committee voted unanimously to hire a full time Veterans Service Officer.
Viet Nam veteran Gary Henkel stood up after the vote and said, "you talk about finances. If you cut the veterans service officer here in Taylor County, how many veterans would move to a county with a full time Veterans Service officer"?
Next the committee considered replacing an administrative support position shared by the Forestry and Zoning departments. Scott Mildebrand suggested waiting until the January 15th county board meeting, telling the group it’s not business as usual.
Chuck Zenner said we keep saying we have budget constraints, but nothing changes, I support waiting.
Zoning Administrator Kyle Noonan said if the position wasn’t filled they couldn’t stay afloat and plumbers, electricians and homeowners would be put on hold.
The vote to fill the position failed by a 3 to 2 vote.