After 40 years without update, Wallingford mayor's assistant job gets makeover

WALLINGFORD — A change in leadership is guaranteed this November with Mayor William Dickinson Jr.'s decision not to run for re-election. So too is a change in the position of his administrative assistant, Joan Stave, who is retiring after four decades.

The work has evolved over time and the current job description does not include many of the responsibilities Stave acquired over the years, making it necessary to make them officially part of the job.

To that end, the council last week approved a job description for the position that includes some new responsibilities, including being the town's fair housing officer. Human Resource Officer Jim Hutt said that it is an opportunity to make any changes to the formal job description while Stave is still here. "She is retiring and that is the reason we're doing this," he said, adding that he has sat down with both Dickinson and Stave to go over the new job description.

The only person missing from that equation is the next mayor, Councilor Craig Fishbein said.

"You are coming up with this document with the two individuals who are not going to be here without input from the individual that we are going to have as mayor,"  Fishbein said.

"We could sit and do nothing," Dickinson said. "My thought was the next mayor needs to have staff that can assist. If we don't do that now, there won't be that capability. If the new mayor comes in and waits a month, two months for an administrative aide, that's not good for the community. You will not be able to process, you will not be able to provide the services. You have to have the ability to do what needs to be done in a timely way."

Instead the job will be posted and applications received so the next mayor can interview and decide who his choice would be to provide for a better transition, Dickinson said. "I feel that is the best way to assure the community that we will continue to provide the services the community needs because without that it would wait and there would be a serious problem in the mayor's office conducting business in a logical and efficient way."

Councilor Sam Carmody questioned if those new responsibilities require additional training, noting that the job also requires the person be a notary public or become one within six months and gain certification to be the ADA coordinator within one year.

Dickinson said he doesn't believe the fair housing officer requires training, and noted that while those responsibilities aren't in the current job description, Stave has been doing them.

"At this time I don't think there is any special training. It is being performed now," Dickinson said of the fair housing officer position. "All of the changes are being performed now by Joan Stave. We are just updating the job description."

"There is a process for being appointed but I'm not aware of any training," Hutt, the human resource officer, told the council. "There's nothing formal that I'm aware of."

Councilor Christina Tatta asked if those responsibilities are part of the job of administrative assistants in other towns or if there is a separate position dedicated to them, to which Dickinson said he did not know.

"In other communities it may be that that's their job, but we haven't found it to be that time consuming to require that. As specialization in laws change that could occur," Dickinson said. "It has worked well. Ms. Stave has the temperament and is very capable of handling those things. I think it often depends on the size of the community and the amount of work those areas create would cause different ways of handling it. But it has worked for us."

"I certainly agree Ms. Stave has been competent in dealing with those," Tatta said. "When I was thinking about where they may fall, I was thinking maybe the Law Department. I'm just a little bit concerned about putting them in the description for this role because we don't know who we are going to get. I almost feel it should fall under the Law Department."

Tatta said she also was concerned with the responsibility of compiling the social services budget of contributions to different agencies. "Is there really that much time spent funding nonprofits that there needs to be a part of the job description?" she asked.

Dickinson said it does involve extra work, contacting the agencies to see if they are going to be making requests for funding and handling any questions or issues that come up in that process. "It is an area that is a little bit different than the departments," he said. "They know what is coming up and it's not as much of an individual effort to contact and see if we have the information necessary."

He said the Law Department would not be an appropriate place for those responsibilities because in the case of issues coming up with them the town would have to hire outside lawyers to handle any lawsuits.

Ultimately the council approved the updated job description with Fishbein and Councilor Joseph Marrone voting against it. But all on the council agreed that the town was losing a valuable resource with Stave's retirement.

"As we see in this overall job description, it's clear as the mayor has pointed out that this position's responsibilities encompass so much of the day to day operations of our town and whoever is hired for this position has incredibly big shoes to fill," Carmody said. "I'm sure there will be more formal opportunities for us to honor and recognize the individuals who are leaving town service at the end of the year, but I just wanted to say that Joan Stave has been an incredible public servant for 44 years and that is a loss to the town. Joan is a real professional. She is someone who has been responsive and helpful to me and I know to many others. I know the next mayor and Jim will have your work cut out for you in filling those shoes."

"Joan is an angel," Fishbein said. 


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