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St. Francois County Public Administrator Gary Matheny recently requested that the county commission approve the promotion of two long-time staff members in his office in recognition of the work they perform that he said is saving county taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars each year.

In St. Francois County, the public administrator acts as guardian or conservator for mentally or otherwise disabled persons who do not have family to act on their behalf and works as the personal representative for the estate of deceased persons without any family, friends or heirs.

The proposed job title promotions would move 14-year employee Mary Zdroj up from deputy clerk III to administrative assistant I; and Vesta Mattingly up from chief deputy IV to administrative assistant II. With the promotions would come pay raises for both positions.

Matheny told the commissioners, “I voiced last year that I didn’t think the job titles that they had, and their job duties didn’t match. The commission, understandably, had other priorities. I’m not expecting you to drop everything for the public administrator.

“This summer I think [Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher] made some remarks that you were prepared to start addressing some of these issues and so I decided to bring them up today. We have provided some bullet points on this PowerPoint.

“What we did was, we went on the internet, went to the state website and we also went to other counties because they have administrative assistants in their public administration offices and other offices as well.

“So, we pulled off some of the highlights as to what administrative assistants are doing. Their current job titles are clerks. Administrative assistants are a step up as far as analysis, preparation and execution of what needs to be done in an office.

According to Matheny, the job duties of other county administrative assistants revolve around managing and distributing information, such as answering phones, taking memos, and maintaining files, along with operating a variety of office equipment. He said they may also be in charge of sending and receiving correspondence, as well as greeting clients and customers; bookkeeping and using task-specific software; documentation to include authoring, typing, editing and proofreading documents; and scheduling appointments and maintaining an accurate calendar.

“With my office, Vesta primarily handles the court filings and makes sure that the bills are being paid,” Matheny said. “Mary is primarily there helping me manage the wards. We call them ‘clients’ but legally they are called ‘wards.’ We’ve got 173 in our county and basically when I say, ‘help manage the wards,’ I mean to make sure they have adequate housing, medical care and that their bills are being paid or that things are being done that need to be done.”

Matheny noted that Zdroj and Mattingly have assumed “a tremendous amount” of responsibilities over the years that are a benefit to the county.

“They have 40 years of experience between them,” he said. “My predecessor, who was a great public administrator, for the last couple of years that he held office, he had some severe disabilities himself. So, that was their chance to take a bat at the plate and they hit home-runs. They responded to every single challenge.

“You guys were kind enough to allot about $16,000 to the Public Administrator’s Office for contract labor for me to hire a lawyer, you know, to represent us in court as public administrator. Every single dime of that contract labor was returned to the county. In 2018 I have not spent one dime on contract labor for legal work that has been allotted to my office because of Vesta and Mary and what they bring to the table.

“I’m going to be candid here. Outside, in the private practice of law before I became public administrator, I was probably one of the worst probate lawyers in the county. You put me in this office with these ladies and I have become one of the best probate lawyers in this county. And it’s not like I walked through the threshold of the door and all of a sudden got smart and wise.”

Matheny said he recalled a commissioner last year asking him if he needed an additional staff member.

“I asked Vesta and Mary if they wanted somebody in the office to help and they said, ‘No, I think that we can handle this. And so, we declined an additional staff member last year, and to me, by the time you add the salary and the benefits associated with that, it’s about $30,000. So, if you round off on an annual basis what Vesta and Mary were able to save the county, it’s about $50,000. We’re not spending that money because of what they bring to the table.”

He emphasized that while Zdroj and Mattingly would be receiving raises with their promotions, “we’re not asking for leaps and bounds on a wage increase.”

Matheny explained that both employees had experienced an increase in workload due to an increase in the number of young adults with severe mental disabilities that have resulted in increased placements, treatment plans and psychiatric services; changes in court filings; keeping up with Medicaid eligibility requirement changes; increases in court appointed successors of deceased estate matters; and an increase in monitoring of vendors and service providers.

He added that Zdroj and Matthingly are covering the amount of work handled by three or four employees in other first-class counties like St. Francois and pointed out that since the county auditor’s office wants all departmental 2019 final budgets in by Nov. 15, he wanted the commissioners to vote on the issue by that date.

“When we submitted our budget a few weeks ago, we put a little asterisk there when it came to payroll, giving you the opportunity to hopefully decide by Nov. 15 to reclassify these ladies and reward them for the good job that they’ve done.”

Associate Commissioner Gay Wilkinson made a motion that the commission take the request under advisement as he believed there would be other departments who would have similar requests to be voted on by that date. The commissioners voted unanimously in favor of Wilkinson’s motion.

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Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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