County Pulse: Stanislaus County boosts the salary to fill another management position

January 31, 2014 

Stanislaus County’s costs are rising for hiring government management professionals.

For the third time in six weeks, county leaders this week approved a loftier salary to fill a managerial position. Rebecca Nanyonjo will become the associate director of the public health division after she clears a final screening. Board approval was required to offer her a salary of $130,220 a year, because it’s well above midpoint of the pay range.

Walter Ward, 58, was hired in January for his expertise in groundwater, and told the county he wouldn’t work for less than $109,449 a year, a report said. Other managers at that same pay grade have to work a number of years to start earning that amount. Ward was the Modesto Irrigation District’s assistant general manager in charge of water operations before retiring in October. He was earning about $150,000 a year with MID and had built up retirement benefits with the district for 17 years.

In December, supervisors agreed to pay $109,449 annually to Seth Rogers to work as business manager for the Sheriff’s Department. It was the most the county could offer for the job and about $36,000 above the lowest end of the salary range. The decision drew a protest from the sworn deputies’ union.

The management salaries are subject to an ongoing 5 percent pay cut for county employees.

According to county officials, Rogers and Nanyonjo were earning more in the private sector before applying for jobs with the county. Filling the two positions was essential – and difficult – because of the small pool of qualified candidates, the county said.

Some of these managerial positions with the county have specific job qualifications established by state law.

“It is a critical position, and we need someone with the experience and the right qualifications,” said Mary Ann Lee, managing director of the Health Services Agency, referring to the associate health director. “For candidates with this kind of experience, their compensation is higher than what we are able to offer.”

Nanyonjo, an epidemiologist, has been the public health director for Princess Cruises and Carnival Australia, and worked for more than six years in public health for San Bernardino County. An agenda report said she developed measures for preventing outbreaks of norovirus on cruise ships. The fast-spreading gastrointestinal illness is notorious for causing cruise ships to return to harbor with sick passengers and crew members.

Plenty of valley residents have caught the ubiquitous bug and can tell stories about it.

The associate director will administer all programs and services for public health, which has a $26 million annual budget.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

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