County to fill Human Services position

Published 10:33 am Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Donna Kuntz has announced her retirement as a Mower County Department of Human Services financial worker.

After 31 years of DHS work for Mower County, Kuntz will retire March 13.

Several DHS co-workers have already indicated an interest in posting for the lead worker’s position.

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That suggests filling the vacancy will be simple.

Not exactly.

When the county commissioners heard Dave Hillier’s explanation of the situation at their meeting Tuesday, they discovered the dilemma faced: Maximizing available dollars in tight economic times.

According to Hillier, 3rd District county commissioner and chairman of the personnel committee, the commissioners needed to review all options.

One of them — a hiring freeze that would leave the position vacant — was immediately ruled out, because of increasing demands during tough economic times.

“We need to replace this position when she retires,” Hillier said. “The Mower County caseload is considered one of the state’s highest.”

Julie Stevermer, new DHS director, agreed, saying more requests for assistance are surfacing.

Eliminating all other options, Hillier made the motion to fill Kuntz’s vacancy and Tim Gabrielson, 1st District, seconded it. All five commissioners voted “aye.”

The personnel decision prompted repeated observations that the weak economy was having an impact locally.

“We’re seeing more individuals continue to apply for assistance,” Stevermer said. “We don’t anticipate any lessening of the caseload in the future.”

The county commissioners also agreed to allow a former DHS employee return to work as an interim receptionist if the financial resources are there.

The DHS’ current receptionist has requested maternity leave, beginning in February.

Stevermer recommended filling the vacancy as soon as possible.

Allowing a former DHS employee to return to work made good sense to her.

“We need someone with Department of Human Services experience in that job,” she said.

The county board directed representatives of the finance and personnel committee to meet with Stevermer and county human resources director Al Cordes to study a recommendation.

At issue, according to Cordes, where the money will come from to fill the post and others.