The Guadalupe County Commissioners Court held its first meeting of the new year on Tuesday.
(Seguin) -- The search is officially on for a new human resources director for Guadalupe County.The Guadalupe County Commissioners Court is working to find a replacement for longtime director Audrey McDougal, who is stepping down at the end of the week to take a position in the private sector.
The court had originally appointed commissioners Jim Wolverton and Judy Cope to lead the search for the new director, but County Judge Kyle Kutscher says with a new member of the court being added, and the importance of the job, it made more sense to have all five members of the court as part of that search. Kutscher says he was concerned initially about having too many people during the early part of the process, but he says it's probably best that they all work on this together.
"You have to be careful. You know and you've seen -- when you get too many people involved, it can go downhill quick. You've got too many people going in too many different directions, and who want too many different things. But ultimately the five of us are going to be held accountable for the actions of the person that is hired. They are going to work for us. And with there being a new commissioner, I don't think it would be bad to have everybody included, and say let's move forward in this process," said Kutscher
The move to have the entire court work on the finding a new director does complicate this just a bit. It means that all of the discussions and interviews would have to be posted as a full commissioners court meeting, and follow all the rules of the Texas Open Meetings Act. The court could interview all of the potential candidates in closed session, but any action or general discussion would have to be done in open session.
That part of the process is now set, but the court also needed to hammer out, who would be in charge of the department once McDougal stepped down on Friday. Some members of the court suggested that County Treasurer Linda Douglass be put in charge on an interim basis. The treasurer's office handled those duties for decades, but a rather contenious decision changed that nearly ten years ago. That's part of the reason why Judge Kutscher openly question the wisdom of that idea during Tuesday's meeting.
"Once upon a time, it was dissected from that department, and that has been a point of contention for a decade, that we are barely starting to get over, and I say that in the kindest of ways. While Mrs. Douglass is extremely experienced and could handle the responsibility without question, she has a tremendous amount on her plate already, and I know she's sitting out there and she would take it on if we said 'we need you do this.' But at the some point, but at the same point come back and take some of that responsiblity away again, and she has not had day-to-day involvement and interaction with that department and its fuctions. If it's the wish of the court to put stuff back into the treasurer's office, (then) we need to have that discussion and make that determination, and that would seem like a viable move. But to say that we are going to go out hire (a director), and leave it structured as such, but in the meantime put in back in the treasurer's office -- that seems like a lot of back and forth to me," said Kutscher.
Kutscher also asked if it was something that Douglass would even consider. Douglass told the court that she would do whatever she could to help the county, but the decision was not up to her.
"I would not say no. Of course, it's up to the court. It's your decision on how you want to move forward with this, but I am willing to help in any way that I can," said Douglass.
Commissioner Greg Seidenberger asked Douglass if she thought there would be an advantage to having her serve as interim director.
Douglass responded, "No, other than you probably won't have to pay me an additional salary to do it."
The court went back and forth over the issue, and ultimately decided that it was best to appoint some in the department as interim director until a more permanent replacement could be found. Precinct 2 Commissioner Drew Engelke, who was attending his first meeting, said that based on what he was hearing, it make sense to appoint someone from within the office.
"Just from what I'm hearing, the management part of this, in the interim, would probably be a smoother transition with somebody within the HR department. Because over the years -- you said it's been a decade since the treasurer's office has been involved -- there's probably been a lot of guideline changes, a lot of HR changes, (and) policies that have changed. So someone in that department is probably already up to speed with all of that. In the interim, having somebody who's in the department, i think it would be maybe a smoother transition, instead of back and forth trying to figure out what's going on. And again, I'm not knocking Mrs. Douglass, she's probably very well qualified, but she has a lot on her plate I would think," said Engelke.
The court approved the appointment of Cheraun Blankenship as the interim HR director effective on Monday. Blankenship currently serves as the county's employee benefits administrator. Blankenship told the court that she would be able to handle the job on an interim basis. The court approved her appointment without any additional pay, but Judge Kutscher says he will put an item on to adjust her salary while she's handling those additional duties.