In an unexpected move, the town of Wendell has hired a staffer to serve as the special assistant to town manager Teresa Piner.
The hiring was first announced when Cary Town Clerk Sherry Scoggins, a Wendell resident, told the Cary Town Council she was resigning her position to take a new job with the town of Wendell.
In the new position, Scoggins will assist Piner in a variety of functions, researching issues facing the manager’s office, helping to seek grants and working with department heads on projects as needed. She will earn $69,000 per year, more than about half the town’s department leaders.
The position Scoggins will fill is a new one. Piner said money was included in the budget. But its creation was not announced publicly and commissioners have never formally voted to approve the position.
Piner said the idea of bringing on a new staffer arose out of conversations she had with board members as part of her annual review process in the spring of 2015.
She said the town’s personnel policy requires commissioners’ approval, but she said after closed-door discussions with commissioners, she knew she had their support to establish the position and she simply failed to bring the matter back to the board in open session for approval.
Mayor Ginna Gray, who was a commissioner at the time the board gave Piner permission to establish the position, said commissioners believed Piner had more to do than she could handle on her own.
“Teresa wears a lot of hats and I feel like she needed some help with that. It was as simple as that,” Gray said.
Mayor pro tem Jon Lutz agreed. “It was related to some personnel issues we had and how best to use them. Do we need to shift people around? Do we need to create a new position,” Lutz said.
Reached after Scoggins resignation from the town of Cary, Gray said she was unsure exactly what Scoggins’ job description would be. Both Lutz and Gray were uncertain what the pay for the position would be.
The job was created prior to the adoption of this year’s budget, Piner said, but only six months worth of the salary was included in the budget to pay for the new post, which is why eight months have elapsed since Piner was given the go-ahead to establish the post.
The new job was OK’d despite a decision by commissioners not to approve increased staffing in at least two other departments. Both the police department and the planning department requested additional positions in the current year’s budget.
In her budget message to commissioners, Piner cited unfunded positions in those departments, but made no mention of including funds for the new position.
“Some of the shortfalls in the FY 2015-16 budget include lack of funds to cover unanticipated equipment failures, the wayfinding signage/branding program’s implementation will continue to be delayed, elinimation of future town hall siting efforts, and the inability to fund vacant positions in police, planning and public works, are some of the impacts citizens will see,” she wrote.
Piner said she hopes the creation of the new position will allow her to have more time to assist department heads with needs they may have. Still, she says she is aware of staffing shortages in other departments. “We are still short a position in public works and police. I’ll be honest, every department could use additional staff,” Piner said.
For her part, Scoggins is excited about returning to her hometown to work.
“I think this presents the opportunity where I can actually be engaged in the community in which I live,” Scoggins said.
Prior to joining the staff in the town of Cary, Scoggins also has served as the town clerk for the Town of Clayton, the executive secretary for Wake County’s Public Safety/Fire-Rescue Division and the secretary for Raleigh police chief. She holds a dual bachelor’s degree in business administration and management of human resources from Barton College in Wilson and an associate’s degree from Louisburg College.
Cary News staff writer Kathryn Trogdon contributed to this report.