Saratoga County officials have increased the minimum qualifications for county animal shelter supervisor and begun advertising for new applicants.
It is an effort to make a fresh start, a month after the Board of Supervisors rejected the controversial proposed appointment of 22-year-old Christina Abele to the vacant position following criticism of her inexperience and her family’s political connections.
“I think in a lot of respects, some of the criticisms were that the job description hadn’t changed in 33 years. In that time, the facility has grown, the budget has grown,” said county Personnel Committee Chairman Arthur Johnson, R-Wilton.
The previous job description had required little more than two years of experience with animals, but the new job description sets minimum educational and experience requirements.
“There’s more emphasis on education, more emphasis on supervisory experience,” Johnson said.
In the new job description, candidates are required to have a bachelor’s degree and four years of experience “in the care and treatment of domestic animals” in a veterinarian’s office, kennel, animal shelter or similar workplace. An alternative would be an associate degree and six years of experience. In either case, the applicant will be required to have two years of supervisory experience.
“A passion for the work is a must,” the job description also states.
The board turned down Abele on March 19 in a contentious split vote after some shelter volunteers complained that longtime workers were overlooked for the job in favor of Abele, a December college graduate whose father has been a donor to the Halfmoon Republican Party.
Several county board committees had supported her candidacy, saying she had ideas to make the shelter better and was qualified for the job. Abele has volunteered at the shelter but does not have enough experience to qualify for appointment under the new job description.
The shelter in Milton, which houses stray and unwanted dogs and cats, has had no director overseeing its 13 full- and part-time employees since longtime shelter director Dan Butler retired in early March.
In the interim, consulting veterinarian Dr. Frank Blaisdell has been spending more time at the shelter, as has someone from the county Personnel Department.
The job description hadn’t been updated since Butler, who had no college degree and little experience when he was hired, took the job in 1978.
The job is classified as noncompetitive through the state Civil Service Commission, meaning applicants don’t have to pass a test but must meet minimum qualifications.
County Personnel Director Jack Kalinkewicz said the new list of minimum qualifications was developed by researching the standards used at private animal shelters.
“There aren’t a lot of others that are public, so wherever we could we looked at the nonprofits, the humane societies of the world,” he said. “We did look outside to see what kind of degrees and experience would be appropriate.”
The base salary will remain $62,413 plus benefits. Last time, there were more than 60 applicants; Kalinkewicz said he’s already received some responses.
Applicants are asked to send résumés to Kalinkewicz at the county complex, 40 McMaster St., Ballston Spa, NY 12020.
County officials haven’t yet set an application deadline, but Johnson said the job will be advertised for at least a couple of weeks. He said he expects to be involved in the winnowing of the applications down to finalists, which has been left to the Personnel Department in the past.
“Optimistically, I would hope we could make a selection in June,” Johnson said.