How Much Help is Too Much? Vice Mayor Gelin Wants An Additional Assistant

commission assistants in Tamarac

By Agrippina Fadel

When the city commission voted to employ their own paid, part-time community engagement liaisons in 2019, it was a win for them,  as they could only rely on staff members and unpaid volunteers before.

According to them, the part-time workload for the city was becoming too taxing to handle alone.

Now, it seems that the allocated 25 hours of liaisons time per week for each commission member is not enough to get their jobs done.

For the third time, the item came up at the commission meeting on February 9, penciled in for discussion by Vice Mayor Mike Gelin.

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“I wasn’t aware that if we had two liaisons, they have to split 25 hours a week,” said Vice Mayor Mike Gelin, who in 2019, voted that each commissioner will be entitled to a temporary, part-time helper who would work no more than 25 hours per week for $17.30 to $20 an hour.

The new positions cost the city between $112,450 to $130,000 yearly. Before 2019, commission members would hire unpaid interns at their discretion.

“To me, it doesn’t make sense. I think we should increase it where each community engagement liaison can serve up to 29 hours a week,” Gelin said, adding that this way, the liaisons can be more effective in their roles of doing the research and serving the community.

Mayor Michelle Gomez said there is no information yet on how much such change would cost a city, but at the previous discussions, it was determined that the budgeting for it was not “in the cards” this year.

“Our human resources will have to provide further analysis on this matter and remind us that going over 25 hours a week changes the role of an employee from part-time to full-time and has other quantifiable and financial items that are not in Tamarac’s budget,” she said.

Gomez added that she understands the roles of community engagement liaisons and appreciates them but said to her colleagues, “We are also here to do our jobs and not have them do it for us.”

Commissioner Debra Placko said she doesn’t mind listening to what staff has to say about adding the liaisons hours. “I will keep an open mind and would like to see if the staff has another alternative,” she said.

Commissioner Elvin Villalobos said there is no need to do due diligence. The suggested 29 hours, for $20 an hour, times four commissioners, time two people each, adds up to $4,640 per week.

“I am not in favor of adding more hours. I have plenty of time with my community liaison. We also have an executive assistant and support from staff. I don’t understand why we would need 58 hours a week,” said Villalobos.

After a short discussion, three out of five commissioners agreed to instruct staff to research the potential increase of hours for community engagement liaisons and bring it to the future workshop meeting.

According to the city website, community engagement liaisons provide a wide variety of clerical and administrative support in the day-to-day operation of the office of the mayor and city commission. The position requires a high school diploma and one to two years of administrative experience.

Before 2020, a paid position of community liaisons did not exist in Tamarac. In the City of Lauderhill, each commission member has an aide; however, in Coral Springs and Parkland, commissioners do not have paid assistants.

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Agrippina Fadel
Agrippina Fadel
Agrippina Fadel grew up in Siberia and received her master's in journalism from Tyumen State University. Agrippina is also a writer and editor at Draftsy.net. She has been a US resident for over ten years and speaks English and Russian.

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