Franklin County commissioners last week quietly selected Howard Nabors to head the road department, and then loudly debated how much he and the other department heads ought to be paid.
In a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Pinki Jackel and Williams Massey opposed, the commissioners on July 2 selected Nabors to replace Hubert Chipman, who retired earlier this year.
The vote came after commissioners held public interviews with Nabors and the other candidate for the job, DeWitt Polous, who heads mosquito control.
The motion for Nabors was made by Commissioner Noah Lockley and seconded by Commissioner Smokey Parrish, and quickly approved without discussion by the divided commission.
What followed turned out to be the most contentious aspect of the morning, as commissioners wrangled over how much to pay Nabors, and whether other department heads’ salaries, including those who have served in an interim capacity, ought to be bumped up.
Chair Cheryl Sanders opened the discussion by noting that when Fonda Davis was selected to replace Van Johnson as head of solid waste, his salary was moved up to $45,000. “Supervisors are on average $45,000,” she said. “Hubert (Chipman) was at $52,000.”
Jackel noted Davis received a $5,000 increase, which in the case of Nabors, would mean his pay would be bumped up from $37,200 to $42,200.
“The man, he’s training all the people, he just doesn’t have the position,” said Lockley. “He say he do a lot of training, so he’s been training.”
Sanders pressed her case. “Howard is coming from rank and file; he’s not coming from supervisory material. I’m looking at him being comparative to what Van was making at solid waste.
“We put Fonda up at $45,000; it’s only right to put Howard up to $45,000 if that’s what we choose to do,” she said. “He deserves a little more consideration to me than $5,000. He’s been there a little over 26 years. I think that speaks for itself right there.”
The motion for $45,000 passed unanimously, but the issue of salaries was not over.
Jackel brought up whether additional pay might be due Polous, for the time served as interim head of the road department.
Sanders took up the matter. “When Alan (Pierce) left that time, two times to be exact, we never raised his pay,” she said. “When Fonda (Davis) was in we never paid him extra. I don’t think it would be going along the right lines to pay him extra.”
Jackel noted commissioners raised a worker’s pay by $2 an hour when they did additional interim work, but Sanders replied that this involved a mechanic, and not someone in a supervisory position.
“I don’t have a problem with it as long as we reimburse Mark (Curenton) and Fonda (Davis) for the time they’ve put in,” said Sanders. “What we did to Fonda is because his mechanic was out, to me it’s different. Let’s be consistent.”
“We have to go back for everybody,” said Lockley.
Jackel moved to revisit interim position of Davis, Curenton and Polous, and “whoever it encompasses.”
That motion carried unanimously, but the discussion continued.
Nikki Millender, head of the county’s parks and recreation, told commissioners that “when I received department head, I only received a $2,500 raise. No assistant, no secretary, I’m out every day sweating. I don’t even make $37,000.”
Jackel moved to set a minimum salary for department heads that would have moved up Millender and perhaps others to $45,000.
Sanders voiced her views. “I want to ask you all something. We’re giving a man a position of superintendent of roads, he’s been there 26 years. That’s all we asked.
“We’ve got everybody coming up here, but look. He’s been there 26 years, doesn’t anyone see what I’m saying?” she said. “If y’all ain’t been there 27 years like him you’re not gonna get it.”
Clerk of Courts Marcia Johnson said the discussion was “opening up the door” to future requests from other employees for additional compensation.
“Today’s not the day to do it,” said Sanders. “We’re her (for Nabors’ salary), not to be up here jewing over somebody’s pay. I can’t believe that you all would put a man down who has worked here for 26 years because he don’t have a high school education.”
Massey took exception. “Don’t be hollering,” he told Sanders. “I’m all for giving him a raise.”
Sanders suggested the matter of department heads’ salaries be discussed as part of the budgeting process, set to begin July 18. “Now is not the time to talk about a raise in pay. We need to do that in about three weeks,” she said.
Issue raised over high school diploma
The two candidates for the position, Nabors and Polous are both department employees with more than 20 years of experience, well in excess of the eight years’ requirement on the job description.
Polous, supervisor of mosquito control, acted as interim assistant supervisor in the absence of a permanent appointee.
He had worked for the roads department since 1993, but was laid off for two years before returning “to do just about everything you can imagine at that landfill,” he said.
After that, Polous was promoted to head of mosquito control, where he divided his time equally between that and the road department.
He said he had done budgeting and supervised two employees for the past 13 years. “My computer skills improved over the years. I really applied myself to that and picked up a lot of skills.”
Polous, who graduated from Carrabelle High School in 1987, is certified in public health pest control, holds a commercial drivers license and able to supervise inmates. His resume lists 13 continuing education certificates including disaster management, damage assessment, debris control, storage tank management, advance mosquito control and supervisory training at Florida State University.
Nabors said he “logged a couple years before I started with the county,” more than 26 years ago, and has since handled all the tools of the trade.
“I trained a lot of the crew that’s out there now,” he said. “There’s a big difference between running a piece of equipment, and operating it.”
Nabors attended high school in Apalachicola in 1984 but there is no mention of a diploma in his resume. County Planner Alan Pierce said he has not completed a General Education Development exam.
In response to a question from Jackel, County Attorney Michael Shuler said the board could consider “any combination of training and experience which provides the required knowledge, skills and abilities to perform the job.”
Nabors told commissioners his “computer skills ain’t too good, but I can try to learn.” He said he planned to rely on Virginia (Messer) to “help a lot with the budget and stuff.”
Parrish asked whether Nabors was familiar with reports. “What reports are you talking about now?” said Nabors. “All our crew turns a work paper in every day, different areas where they work, and every two weeks she makes the work order up. What dirt you get or what grass is cut or what ditches or culvert pipe is put in.”
Nabors said he would work to improve the morale at the road department, and volunteered a test period for his hire. “We can try to have a better workplace, I think I can do that,” he said. “Six month probation, if I cain’t.”
Parrish underlined the condition. “I’d like for us evaluate whoever the individual is for six months. Whoever we put there has not been there before.”