Saratoga County

Saratoga County to revise shelter director qualifications

Saratoga County officials plan to revise the job description for the county animal shelter director

Saratoga County officials plan to revise the job description for the county animal shelter director and start a new search after supervisors voted down the young woman who was the first pick for the job.

Personnel Director Jack Kalinkewicz said at a Wednesday meeting of the county’s Personnel Committee that a search committee is working weekly on revising the job description and will likely have an updated version in a few weeks.

He likely will review the updated description with the Personnel Committee before beginning to recruit people for the job, he said, even though that’s not required.

Officials faced the choice of either revising the job description or going back to the original pool of candidates after the Board of Supervisors on March 19 rejected hiring 22-year-old Christina Abele for the position.

Supervisors turned down Abele in a contentious split vote after some shelter volunteers complained that longtime workers were overlooked for the job in favor of a candidate who lacked experience in the field. Some people also suggested Abele was picked because her father donated money to the county Republican Committee.

Others supported her candidacy and said the recent Siena College graduate had ideas to make the shelter better and was qualified for the job.

Longtime director Dan Butler retired in early March.

The job currently is classified as noncompetitive through the state Civil Service Commission, meaning applicants don’t have to pass a test but must comply with certain minimum qualifications. Changing the job description too much might cause the commission to require the county to make the position competitive and have candidates pass a test, though Kalinkewicz said that is unlikely and the commission appears willing to leave the decision up to the county.

The other option is to make the job exempt from Civil Service requirements, meaning it would be advertised without minimum qualifications. County officials have said they want to keep the job noncompetitive.

Supervisor Anita Daly, R-Clifton Park, said some updates do need to be made to the job description because the job is more complex than it was in 1979, when the description was written. But she cautioned against making the qualifications too specific, lest candidates who could offer a unique perspective not qualify.

For example, perhaps in the future the county will want a director who comes from a business background rather than an animal science background, she said.

Arthur Johnson, R-Wilton, chairman of the committee, agreed.

“We don’t want to make it so tight that it’s going to limit the potential candidates,” he said.

Until a new director takes the helm, Robert Hartman from the Personnel Department goes to the shelter in Milton every day to make sure administrative tasks are being completed properly, Kalinkewicz said.

“We are on that daily, right to the level of opening the mail and making sure it goes in the right direction,” he said.

Also, longtime shelter veterinarian Dr. Frank Blaisdell is serving as an administrative adviser in the interim.

“He’s been there forever; he’s certainly qualified,” Kalinkewicz said.

The shelter has 13 employees and temporarily houses unwanted dogs and cats. The director’s job pays a base salary of $62,413 per year.

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