SNOW HILL — This week, a collective 241 years of experience retired from Worcester County.
The County Commissioners honored 14 retiring Worcester employees Tuesday. The group is comprised of many employees taking advantage of the county’s early retirement incentive program, which began three years ago. The program was developed to offset budget problems by reducing overall staff and cutting positions without having to make layoffs. Instead, employees are offered bonuses and enticements to retire early.
According to Commissioner Louise Gulyas, this year’s group is about twice as large as it was last year.
While some positions are refilled after retirement, many others are eliminated.
“We’re trying to only fill essential positions at the time being,” said Gulyas.
Gulyas explained that “essential” generally meant public safety. Gulyas said that it would be nice to fill every vacant position but she didn’t think it was likely. When asked if losing several positions simultaneously might cause a hiccup in county operations, she admitted anything was possible, but was optimistic about getting along despite the loss of manpower.
“We’re going to try and work around it,” she said.
According to Gulyas, current county employees have always been efficient, and if there’s any workload spillover brought on by the retirements, it will be fielded by those still in office.
“Our employees are good that way,” she said.
Commissioner Judy Boggs agreed that employees would probably be able to pick up any slack, but warned that eliminating positions can only go on for so long before it does start to hurt the county.
“We’re approaching that point,” she said. “We’ll look at each position very carefully.”
The silver lining to having so many people retire at once, according to Boggs, is that it might signal an upswing in the economy, since she felt most people would be hesitant to leave their job unless they expected the current financial slump to alleviate in the near future.
Those retiring departed from a wide range of fields and positions, from the Solid Waste Department to the State’s Attorney’s Office. The least experienced of the group was with the county for six years, while the most had worked for Worcester for 40 years.
“Folks, we have here about 18,000 years of retirement,” joked Commission President Bud Church.
Church thanked the employees for their work collectively, singling out several with whom he’d worked personally.
“We believe that we have the best county in the United States…Without you all, nothing would ever get done,” he said.
The rest of the commission weighed in as well.
“It all comes back to our staff people,” said Gulyas.
She explained that whatever decisions the commission made, they could not be carried out without the work of county employees.
“We make the decisions, you make them work,” she told the retirees.
Commissioner Virgil Shockley added, “You each did your jobs, and you did them well.”