Last month, enough members of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors thought better of hiring an inexperienced 22-year-old to run the county’s animal shelter. They wisely rejected the candidacy of Christina Abele. That was over the recommendation of the board’s selection committee, at least one member of which had received sizable campaign contributions from the candidate’s politically connected father.
Now the county has taken the next logical step, updating the animal shelter director’s job description and qualifications for the first time in 33 years to account for how the facility has grown since the last director was hired. This is also good news, and evidence that the board learned something from the political firestorm created by the selection committee’s endorsement.
Abele, a five-year shelter volunteer and recent college grad, may have been a good candidate in many respects, but she clearly lacked management experience. Maybe that wasn’t such a big issue when the last shelter director, Dan Butler, was hired in 1980. But the shelter has grown into a fairly big operation, with five full-time and seven part-time employees, as well as several dozen volunteers. Managing a work force of that size is not easy for someone with no experience, regardless of their education credentials. And the job’s salary, $62,413 plus benefits, was hardly inconsequential.
Then there was the issue of Abele’s father — a businessman who has donated thousands to county Republicans over the years. Juxtaposed with his daughter’s glaring lack of experience, it appeared that the political fix was in.
Perhaps it never occurred to the board to update the director’s job description when it solicited applicants, which may explain why hordes of people with better qualifications didn’t apply. But after the public got wind of the situation and voiced outrage, the board wisely reconsidered.
It has since reviewed the qualifications and tweaked the job description appropriately, so that not only is more experience with animals required for the job — four years instead of just two for applicants with a bachelor’s degree; six years with an associate’s — applicants must also have at least two years’ supervisory experience. At least now if the board opts for a candidate with political connections, members will be in a better position to argue that they were merely coincidental.