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Commissioners approve the creation of Emergency Services jobs

Wednesday, August 18, 2021 by Seth Smalley

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Commissioners Court, county budget chief Travis Gatlin delivered updates about the 2022 budget and made specific requests to finance staff positions from the 2021 budget. Additional budget hearings will continue later this week, where the court will hear more budgetary requests from county departments.

Gatlin discussed a new chief deputy position in Emergency Services, as well as additional emergency assistance staffing, including seven social workers, six caseworkers and 11 office specialists.

“Both PBO (Planning and Budget Office) and Emergency Services feel strongly that those positions should start earlier,” Gatlin told commissioners, asking for funding from the current budget.

“There’s also additional staffing requests that we can go over on the General Fund side and I’m happy to go over any of these in greater details with you.”

Commissioner Ann Howard wanted to know more about the role of the “office specialist” and whether these jobs, if created, would directly help their constituents.

“Does that mean the work envisioned is more internal in the office versus external with clients? When I think of social workers and caseworkers, there’s a sense we’re reaching out to people and helping navigate problems versus … I’m not sure what the office specialist title does,” Howard said.

Gatlin explained that office specialists provide administrative support for social workers and caseworkers.

County executive Sherri Fleming (who later in the meeting announced her pending retirement next February) assured Howard of the role office specialists play in directly aiding constituents.

“Our office specialists do a really great job of reaching out to folks to follow up on documents. They reach out to you and they also answer quite a few questions from folks about applications, the status of those applications’ missing documents. They provide information for referral to other services … so our office specialists are really the first line of defense in our community centers when constituents call for information,” Fleming told the commissioners.

Commissioners unanimously approved the request.

The Planning and Budget Office plans to speak to the Commissioners Court again at the end of August to discuss the impact of these budget requests.

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