County Employees Want More Pay, Less Conflict

Posted on September 29, 2021 by Romi White

Former Santa Rosa Commissioner Rob Williamson, who now works as Insurance Manager for the Florida Association of Counties (FAC), pictured with former County Administrator Dan Schebler, Interim Assistant County Administrator Brad Baker and Human Resources Director GinNeal McVay, developing questions for the employee survey. FAC facilitated the survey.

Former County Administrator Dan Schebler resigned July 13. But before his August 25 departure, he helped design an employee survey, which seems to have been a parting shot. However, the new administration says it can use some results as they work to improve conditions for staff.

At the end of the county’s July 15 budget workshop, Commissioner Bob Cole suggested partnering with the Florida Association of Counties Trust (FACT) to conduct the survey.

“Make it happen,” Commission Chairman Dave Piech, who serves as secretary of FAC, told Schebler, who subsequently worked with staff and FAC Insurance Manager Rob Williamson, formerly the District 4 County Commissioner, to craft the survey.

Brad Baker, whom Schebler named acting assistant county administrator on July 21, helped finalize the survey questions, although he pointed out the survey was mostly complete by the time he became involved.

Baker said some “political” parts of the survey aren’t useful, such as asking employees whether or not they have interaction with a county commissioner at least monthly. “Why would a dump truck driver need to interact with a commissioner every month,” Baker said, noting commissioners are duly elected by the people and that he will continue working with Interim County Administrator DeVann Cook to focus on what they can do to help employees and foster better working relationships with the board and community.

The survey was issued to staff in August and included 38 questions, gauging employee satisfaction.

Most of those responses leaned toward positive results, including more than 90% of respondents strongly agreeing, agreeing or somewhat agreeing with the following statements:

  • I have the materials and equipment to produce quality results and work efficiently 
  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day 
  • My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person 

Despite these more than 90% agreeable results, the survey report from the Kinzer Group in Tallahassee, which compiled the results, claims the scores for these indicators show staff were only “marginally engaged.”

In fact, Kinzer Group’s report claims staff were only “marginally engaged” for 8 and “not engaged” for 4 of the 12 key questions, known as Q12 scores. None of Kinzer’s Q12 results showed staff as engaged or fully engaged. 

Baker questioned the results of the Q12 scoring compared to the actual survey percentages and said the county is following up for clarification.

Additionally, the survey featured two “open-ended” questions, which evoked hundreds of comments, including a small fraction of responses calling for the firing of the Human Resources Director or expressing criticism of District 3 Commissioner James Calkins, who had ongoing conflicts with Schebler.

Some comments were: 

  • Listen to the employees and sincerely try to fix the mess they created.
  • Address development and storm water issues
  • Give raises to everyone, stop clear cutting, fix infrastructure, support impact fees, actually do what the citizens want and not what the developers want.
  • Figure out a way to begin work to catch up the roads.
  • I would put a stop to the influence of developers and builders on county commissioners. Introduce a morale and wellness ini
  • Raise pay then concentrate on infrastructure

Overwhelmingly, however, the top concern from county staff comments involved their pay.

“Give the employees a raise instead of putting GPS on the vehicles so that they can be micromanaged. Whenever you are not offered very much pay, people are not gonna stay,” said one employee.

Cook said three years ago a salary study was completed. Since that time some, but not all, of the salary recommendations have been implemented.

“Our primary focus will be on implementing the requirement to move pay to the required $15 per hour,” Cook said. “As we move in that direction, many salary concerns will be addressed.  If we identify specific positions that are not appropriately compensated, we will review them and make adjustments.”

District 1 Commissioner Sam Parker said the administration regime change to the Cook and Baker administration team has already reduced conflicts and increased productivity during county commission meeting. He has noticed less angry citizens and feels that’s an indicator that the new administration is headed in the right direction.

“I feel very optimistic about some changes that they have already started working on to help improve the work environment for employees and to also improve communication with our citizens, staff and the commissioners,” said Parker. “I think the new administration will continue to move our county in a positive direction.”