Mayor asks for exception to hiring freeze - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Mayor asks for exception to hiring freeze

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BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) – In spite of a hiring freeze, Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker will ask the City Council Tuesday to allow the hire of an Executive Secretary for his office.   

None of the four staffers in the mayor's office were affected by the budget cuts approved by the City Council in December 2009, which slashed more than 80 city jobs and eliminated nearly 20 others to shore up a $6.5 million dollar shortfall for 2010.  In the process, the council required their approval for all new hires, if they can be proven critical to the operation of the city.  "This gives close scrutiny and it does help all of us make certain that we're tightening our belts and continuing to try to do more with less up to the point that you can do more with less," says Mayor Walker.  But an executive secretary, he insists, is a critical position he can't do without. 

"There's secretaries and then there's secretaries," explains Walker, "The position appears as Executive Secretary and Assistant to the Mayor and even with the reductions that we've had, we're still a city of some 755 employees, and even trimmed back, with a population approaching 67,000 people, this is a big operation.  You cannot run the office of effectively without a very,very able executive secretary, a confidential secretary to assist with a myriad of things."

The mayor's current executive secretary, Bonnie Barclay, is set to retire in early April.  Mayor Walker asked the council once before to allow for her replacement, a request that was rejected in February by a vote of 5-2.  "Perhaps I should have given them a better description and explained some of the job requirements that aren't in the job description," reflects Walker.  Left with the option of replacing Barclay from within the city's ranks, Walker advertised the position for eight days.  He says no one applied.  

With a pay and promotion freeze also in effect, Walker believes there was little motivation for someone to make the move.  The salary range for the Executive Secretary position is $35,000 to 45,000 a year. Walker also points out that it's an "unclassified" position, which means they are employed "at will."  Anyone already on the city's payroll as "classified" would not likely be interested in giving up that extra level of job security.  Besides, Walker says, "If I did find somebody hiring from within that had met the criteria, still, that just creates another vacancy."

Now, it's back to the council with another request, and this time, Walker says he's personally lobbied each of the council members with a more detailed description of the job he's hoping they'll allow him to fill. "Fortunately I believe the city council now better understands why it's so crucial to fill this and other key positions and selectively hire back people for positions which become vacant."

One of those key positions is the Chief of Police for the Bossier City Police Department.  Chief Mike Halphen retired in February after serving eight years in the job.  The City is currently in the process of finding his replacement.  A resolution authorizing the hire of his replacement is also on the agenda for Tuesday's special meeting, along with authorization to replace three meter readers that, according to District 2 Council Member Jeff Darby, have been fired since the hiring freeze went into effect. 

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