Like Other Towns, Berlin Feels Strain With Hiring, Retaining

BERLIN – A discussion regarding hiring difficulties highlighted departmental reports at this week’s meeting of the Berlin Town Council.

Town department heads talked about the trouble they’re having finding qualified workers at Monday’s council meeting. They said the problem appeared to be nationwide.

“It’s difficult right now,” said Jamey Latchum, the town’s director of water resources. “Everybody’s looking.”

Latchum told the council his department had had an employee resign this month. While the department made one hire, it is still down several positions. Latchum said he’d attended a national conference last month and that recruitment and retention had been a primary discussion point. While salary is always a key factor, Latchum said his department only had so much money to offer.

Mayor Zack Tyndall said another issue was the fact that many of the positions required credentials. Latchum said he was lucky to have six certified operators but that some of them were nearing retirement.

Tyndall said the hiring difficulties were across the board, with Berlin’s police and electric departments also struggling. Tim Lawrence, the town’s electric utility director, said his department had been trying to hire a lineman for two months.

“I’ve talked to several other municipalities, we’re all having the same issue trying to hire qualified personnel,” he said. “The new thing nowadays is, I think it’s 65% of the people that are out there looking for jobs want to be able to work from home. That’s really creating an issue.”

Resident Marie Velong said she felt governments needed to promote public service at the high school level and increase employees pay.

“I think that’s what’s wrong with our whole society,” she said. “You don’t have enough representation of public service.”

Lawrence said his department did have several apprentices in training but they weren’t ready to fill the gap left by the retirement of a 30-year lineman.

“You can’t take an apprentice and put him up working with 25,000 volts without knowing what he’s doing,” he said.

Tyndall pointed out that roughly a third of the town’s workforce was at or nearing retirement. He said that was something officials needed to keep in mind planning for the future.

“When you look across the board that’s a lot of institutional knowledge,” he said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.