Possible hunt for field supervisor, too

The Idyllwild Water District’s special meeting Sept. 27 was a discussion of a revised job description for the general manager position and a plan for recruiting a full-time general manager.

The General Manager Committee of directors David Hunt and Steven Kunkle requested the special meeting the week before during their report at the Sept. 19 regular meeting. Hunt said the meeting would be used to complete the revised job description and to agree to the plan for advertising the position.

As he began, Hunt reported that a brief advertisement, without the specifics of the job requirements nor salary, had been in the larger Southern California newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Press Enterprise.

Somewhat surprised, Hunt said the district had already received a dozen responses. While some were very general, he thought three “had water backgrounds and looked pretty strong.”

In hiring a general manager, the directors raised the question of a second position — field supervisor. This position would have direct supervision over the water and wastewater staff. The general manager would oversee the district with more responsibility for the administrative functions.

Kunkle shared that he had changed his mind about the role of a full-time general manager.

“The current [Jack Hoagland] and previous [Tom Lynch] general managers were more administratively oriented. Consequently, the district suffered some,” Kunkle opined. “Now I lean toward someone with more field experience. We can have Hosny [Shouman, the chief financial officer] do the other work.”

Director Les Gin, who attended via teleconference, concurred with Kunkle’s view, and hoped the new person would choose to live in Idyllwild and become involved with the community.

Shouman expressed some budget reservations about filling two positions, whose salary and benefits would exceed $200,000 each.

And President Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly agreed. Idyllwild is small district and cannot offer the same salary as larger districts, but the allure of Idyllwild “should be a huge benefit.”

Public comments ranged from enhancing the benefit package, including the types of benefits, to the actual job requirements and search time.

Idyllwild resident Sue Nash urged the board to switch its retirement and health programs to CalPers, which is a “defined benefits package,” from the district’s current “defined contribution” package.

During the benefits discussion, Hunt suggested that providing a house might be a large incentive to attracting better qualified applicants. The district could buy a property and lease it to the general manager and it “would be a good investment for the district.”

Trudy Levy encouraged the board to find a general manager who will be “more responsive to the whole community.” She also urged the board to include a community member on the hiring committee.

The concern over salary and benefits should be considered, agreed Vic Sirkin.

However, if one or two new managers can find ways to reduce IWD’s costs for pipelines and wastewater treatment, the savings may be much greater than the salary and benefits package. He encouraged the board to be open-minded when it started the recruitment process and not eliminate options before evaluating possible alternatives.

As the meeting concluded, Schelly noted that the contract with Hoagland expires Dec. 31. “I don’t want to hurry the process, but my concern would be to be without a general manager. To do something before the first of the year would alleviate my anxiety.”

The committee was asked to bring a completed job description and recruitment plan to the October meeting.