Help wanted: Butler County still needs to fill director roles

New pay ranges approved to attract and retain people.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Butler County may have a big leadership void due to widespread, global hiring issues, but officials say service hasn’t suffered due in large part to the efforts of Administrator Judi Boyko.

The county has been hunting for a new finance director for six months and a human resources director for three. There are 27 vacancies on the county commissioners’ staff of around 600 employees. That’s why the commissioners approved new pay ranges and some healthy raises — at a cost of around $220,000 — last week to staunch the flow of employees exiting the building.

Boyko has been handling not only her own enormous responsibilities but budgeting and other finance duties for the county since Angel Burton quit the top finance job in February. Laurie Murphy left her post as Human Resources director in May to become Fairfield’s assistant city manager.

County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser said the county hasn’t missed a beat.

“It’s only because of the competency of Judi Boyko, if we didn’t have Judi Boyko we would have to hire two to fill her position,” Gmoser told the Journal-News. “We got a bargain with her, I’m not just blowing smoke, we just got lucky.”

The commissioners promoted Julie Tragessor to assistant human resources director after Murphy left and she said they have received only 34 applications for the finance job and 100 for her department.

Most of the elected officials and bigger departments have their own finance directors but the county commissioners hold the county’s purse strings, so everything must go through the county finance director. The job entails much more than just budgeting and Boyko has made it a priority to get it filled.

County Treasurer Nancy Nix said she has not seen county operations suffer as a result of the openings.

“As far as our office we have not noticed anything different or poorly done or any balls dropped, nothing,” Nix said. “I don’t mean to say they don’t need one because I don’t think Judi could be doing this, it’s not sustainable, for Judi to do all these jobs for a long period of time.”

Boyko told the Journal-News the county is not unique in this regard.

“It is indicative of the macro workforce in the greater Cincinnati area and the nation,” Boyko said. “And it is uniquely laser focused on public sector finance director positions. I have peers who have vacancies who had contracted services as a position for a year before they found a candidate. So it is a void in local government, high level executive finance candidates.”

Boyko and her team are responsible for a total county budget of $505.5 million, the 600-some employees and 14 departments under the commissioners’ direct control and interacting with 15 other elected offices independent boards.

Cheryl Subler, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio told the Journal-News they are hearing from other counties a number of influences are at work here.

“Wages and benefits are the bedrock of attraction and retention along with culture. For Ohio public employees, retirement benefits, particularly retiree health care, is not what it used to be,” Subler said. “Plus, some employees no longer envision a 30-year career with one employer. And, some employees are looking for more workplace flexibility then certain public sector positions can offer simply due to the nature of the work.”

The county hired Management Partners for $15,000 in May to find a finance guru and a new economic development director, but they have pivoted to finding an HR director first. Hiring a new assistant county administrator — Scott Timmer left in January to take the helm of the city Fairfield after only six months — and an economic development director are not priorities at the moment.

Vickie Barger, the sheriff’s finance director, has been helping Boyko, especially with the tax budgets that needed to be compiled from the various elected officials, departments and independent boards, the final budget process for next year is fast approaching. Boyko said she is considering some other interim options.

“I am looking at a couple of contracted services, some other opportunities to get somebody in there,” Boyko said. “Vickie and the sheriff have been gracious and Vickie has been so generous with her time and efforts helping me get the basics done. But it’s too complicated, too many systems we have to maintain.”

Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer said it has been a little difficult sharing Barger, but since they are such a large agency they are used to helping out other offices on any number fronts, especially in the human resources area.

He said he hasn’t seen a break-down in service due to the vacancies in the commissioners’ offices.

“I haven’t seen any change at the county level of any significance,” Dwyer said. “Obviously there’s change there, there’s a different person to call but I wouldn’t diss the county for what they’re doing, they are handling everything as best they can. When you obviously have like a Laurie Murphy leave you’re going to have a transition, somebody has to pick the ball up, but that happens everywhere.”

Burton was making $118,158 and Murphy $99,180 when they left and now the range is $94,000 to $139,776 with the 2% hike to the minimum and maximum ranges as recommended by the recent wage study update the commissioners adopted. The old range was $84,219 to $124,800.

Commissioners Don Dixon and T.C. Rogers said they are not concerned anything is getting missed because they have an excellent staff. About Boyko, Rogers said “I am concerned with the overload of her work but I also know she’ll handle it and we’ll back her up.”

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