Rockdale’s ‘Extreme Makeover’

Makeover 1

County government pushes to recruit more women   

Top, L-R:Deputy Fire Chief Marian McDaniel, Kc Krizic, director of planning and development; Sue Sanders, director of Parks and Recreation and Facilities

Bottom L-R: Roselyn Miller,  finance directo;, Jennifer Rutledge, County Clerk, director of legislative affairs; Toni Holmes, director of Talent Management

 

Women and minorities are increasingly breaking barriers in Rockdale County, filling top-tier and other positions that historically have lacked diversity.

Currently, six women serve among the county’s 12 directors and five serve among Rockdale’s 12 deputy directors.

Rockdale County Chairman Oz Nesbitt says that while workforce diversity remains a work in progress, he is proud of the gains Rockdale has made since he launched what he calls an “extreme makeover” in the county’s government. Nesbitt said he decided to make workforce diversity one of his top priorities after his election as Chairman in Nov. 2016. He had served two, four-year terms on the Board of Commissioners before he took the reigns as the county’s top official.

“The No. 1 thing that I saw lacking was effective communication, accountability, follow-up and follow-through,” said Nesbitt. “That’s when I knew Rockdale County government needed an extreme makeover. ”

Marian McDaniel, who serves as deputy chief of administration at Rockdale County’s Fire Department and is known as “Chief Mac,” is part of the “extreme makeover” in Rockdale.  The Fire Department is Rockdale’s second-largest department after the Sheriff’s Office.

McDaniel said for the first time in Rockdale’s history, a woman recently achieved the rank of lieutenant in the Fire Department. McDaniel announced Lt. Melissa Chirello during the May 7 Board of Commissioners meeting.

“With Lt. Chirello’s promotion, we currently have a female sergeant, a captain in training and myself as deputy chief,” McDaniel said.

Pictured:Deputy Fire Chief Marian McDaniel says she is glad she accepted the position with Rockdale County.

McDaniel said job fairs have made a big difference in the county’s workforce transformation. In January 2018, she worked with Rockdale’s Chief of Staff Corey Hambrick to host a job fair, hiring her first group of firefighters.

“We had 100 interested applicants at the job fair. From that group, I recruited 24 firefighters, the majority of whom were African Americans. Of the 24, 13 passed background checks and went through the training to become firefighters. Three of them were women,” said McDaniel. “Prior to hiring that class, there were only five African Americans out of 131 personnel.”

McDaniel, who was appointed by the Board of Commissioners, which is comprised of Chairman Nesbitt and Post 1 Commissioner Sherri L. Washington and Post 2 Commissioner Doreen Williams, began working for the county on Oct. 2, 2017. Nesbitt’s administration recruited McDaniel out of retirement from the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, where she had worked her way up the ranks as a lieutenant, captain, section chief and departed asassistant fire chief.

“It’s been a great ride and I’m glad that I did it,” McDaniel said of her decision to accept the position in Rockdale. “I feel that I’m here not for myself but for the community—to try and make a difference.”

McDaniel’s first recruit class was sworn in on April 6. Her second recruit class is underway with a tentative graduation scheduled for August. In total, McDaniel has hired 26 firefighter recruits; 20 are African American, four of which are women, and one Hispanic.

Washington said she believes Chief Mac has been an inspiration to women and minorities.

“With a concerted effort, we are now recruiting more African-American fire personnel,” said Washington. “Just by being in that position, I have to believe that Chief Mac is inspiring others who may never have considered firefighting as a career.

Kc Krizic, director of planning and development, is another newcomer and part of Rockdale’s extreme makeover. She has been on the job for about a year and four months and Commissioner Williams is singing her praises as a “forward thinker.” Williams said, for example, that Krizic was already working on measures to deal with short-term vacation rentals before Rockdale citizens brought up the issue. Williams also applauded Krizic for her thorough research on proposed projects, citing the work she recently did on a proposal for an Autism Crisis Unit that would serve children throughout the state of Georgia.

“All of our directors are very detailed, thoughtful and careful in what they do—each one of them. I think having as many women as we have as directors has increased not only commitment to the county but to excellence as well,” said Williams.

Williams and Washington also said they consider Sue Sanders, director of Parks and Recreation and Facilities and Maintenance, and Roselyn Miller, Rockdale’s finance director, success stories.

“That’s not a job that women typically hold,” Washington said of Sanders. “And she does it in heels just about every day.”

Sue Sanders, Director of Parks and Rec and Maintenance, oversees 120 employees.

Sanders, who is celebrating her 18th-year anniversary with the county this month, became a director in August 2016 after serving eight years as deputy director. In addition to Parks and Recreation and Maintenance, Sanders is responsible for Animal Control, Senior Services, Capital Projects, SPLOST Project Oversight, Fleet, and Recycling. She oversees an $8.6 million operating budget and 120 employees. her department, 54 are women. She said 54 women work in her department, 13 of them in leadership positions.

“A very rewarding part of what I do is comprised of solving problems and helping people—both citizens and co-workers,” said Sanders. “The best part of my job, though, is the people I work with—from the supportive Board, to the best group of Directors this County has ever seen, to all of the front line people and everyone in between.  I’m also extremely proud to work with the highly professional team of individuals that comprise my department.  There is absolutely no way I could handle such a large department, with so many different areas and demands, without my team of over achievers.”

Roselyn Miller, who has served as finance director since 2009, heads a staff of 14 employees, 12 of whom are women. Miller’s department is comprised of one Hispanic, six whites and six African Americans. She served as deputy director five years before becoming director and leading the department with distinction.  Miller said the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) awarded a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting to Rockdale in 2017.

“This was the tenth consecutive year that the government has achieved this prestigious award.  In order to be awarded a Certificate of Achievement, a government must publish an easily readable and efficiently organized comprehensive annual financial report,” Miller said.

Jennifer Rutledge is another longtime employee who has climbed the county’s corporate ladder. Rutledge, who has served as county clerk for more than 20 years, was appointed director of legislative affairs by the Board of Commissioners in 2017 after Nesbitt suggested expanding her responsibilities and pay.

“It’s been challenging but I really love it,” Rutledge said of her new role. “I never thought that I would be somewhere for so long, but this administration has allowed me to grow right here in Rockdale.”

Rutledge, who began her career with the county in 1996 as an administrative secretary in Rockdale’s Public Works Department, became county clerk in 1998, serving through six administrations in the position.

Rutledge said as legislative director, she monitors local, state and federal legislation concerning Rockdale. Currently, she is seeking funding for transportation projects for the county.

Rutledge said Rockdale has come a long way in terms of workforce diversity in the more than two decades she has spent at the county.

“I appreciate the diversity this board has brought—not just in terms of men and women and race. I look at our team and it is reflective of the population we serve. We have well-educated people serving,” said Rutledge. “It’s a very exciting time to be here.”

No one, perhaps, is more in tune with the county’s workforce diversity than Toni Holmes, who was appointed by the Board of Commissioners in 2017. Holmes serves as director for Rockdale’s Department of Talent Management (Human Resources).

Holmes said Rockdale currently has approximately 1,000 employees, of which approximately 50 percent are female. Holmes, who has worked in Human Resources and Business Management and Operations for more than 25 years for companies such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Kmart Corporation, Iron Mountain and Carter Brothers, said implementing recruiting action plans that include pathways for employees to grow and developing partnerships with the Rockdale School System and others is helping the county to reach a more diverse and qualified candidate pool.

“We’re focused on building relationships with community partners such as the Rockdale County School System to provide internships,” said Holmes, adding that female students have the chance through internships and job shadowing, for example, to explore careers historically held by men. Some of the jobs, she said, include code enforcement officer; equipment operator; building maintenance; Fire & Rescue; and the Sheriff’s Office.

Holmes said the Rockdale County Institute, which offers county workers training and development courses, is another tool Rockdale is using to help employees move up the corporate ladder. Last year, more than 60 percent of county employees participated in training classes offered by the county.

Holmes said the county also is working on completing a market survey examining salaries and re-branding the county’s compensation philosophy.

“Our focus is on providing a fair wage along with a competitive benefits program for our employees here at Rockdale County,” said Holmes.

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