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Help wanted: City of Dickinson has several open positions in its departments

Press Photo by April Baumgarten The city of Dickinson is in need of workers but has had problems recruiting employees to the area, officials said Thursday.

Just like other agencies and businesses, the city of Dickinson has put up its help wanted sign.

The city has tried to fill several positions throughout its operations — both indoor and outdoor jobs — but always seems to come up short.

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There are 18 full-time positions available at the city in nine departments with more waiting for approval, and 22 seasonal positions will be opening up soon, Human Resources Coordinator Shelly Nameniuk said.

“There’s a lot of outside work — mowing, some at the museum, forestry, line locators,” Nameniuk said.

The city has tried to rebrand positions and tweak job descriptions, Nameniuk said.

“We took one-and-a-half operator positions and made it into a senior street position, trying to get someone with a little bit more experience,” Nameniuk said. “We had that open twice and saw no applicants, so we’ve gone back to advertising for a street operator.”

And when positions do see applicants, they may not be the right applicants, or the potential employee and their family may not want to make the move.

“We had the position open and we had one applicant that had real nice experience,” Nameniuk said of a property appraiser position. “But he couldn’t convince his wife to move to North Dakota.”

The sheer cost of living in the Oil Patch can be a deterrent for some.

“People are declining before we even get to the interview stage,” Nameniuk said. “They don’t always tell me. Sometimes it is because of salary. A lot of them are applying from out of state and they really don’t have any intention of moving here. … Or they see how much housing costs and realize that they can’t probably afford the housing costs.”

A recent round of job openings did have enough applicants to be scored — a process used when more than seven people apply for the same position — to determine which ones are brought in for an interview, Nameniuk said.

The city has had more luck with the office positions, like an administrative assistant position that opened up in the community development department, Nameniuk said. The operator positions in the maintenance departments have been more of a challenge.

Government jobs have traditionally had a lot of red tape from application date to hire.

“If I was actively seeking a job, I wouldn’t be waiting around for someone to make me an offer,” Commissioner Shirley Dukart said. “I would probably take the first offer or either a location that I chose over waiting to see if I was going to be hired.”

The city’s human resources department has worked with the civil service commission to streamline the hiring process, Nameniuk said.

Former city finance director Tina Johnson left the city to work for Dickinson Catholic Schools earlier this year, leaving a vacant position.

In an effort to fill the job, City Administrator Shawn Kessel and Mayor Dennis Johnson have decided to change the position to deputy city administrator for finance and administrative services.

“(With) the current hiring environment, the wage that this type of position would command — we would fall in with attracting someone,” Kessel said. “I expect that the difference between a finance director and a deputy city administrator for finance and admin services would probably mean an additional $10,000 a year.”

The employee would not only keep track of the city’s finances but also analyze the budget and relieve Kessel of some of his duties.

“That could be explaining what is happening today or what appears it will happen three month, six months, a couple years from now,” Dennis Johnson said.

The city has been budgeting one year at a time, but with the position change, budgeting could be done a few years out preliminarily for planning purposes.

As the city grows, now is the time to add a deputy city administrator, Dennis Johnson said.

“I think we have room in our city now for a very senior-level executive position that is responsible for this,” Dennis Johnson said.

Kessel spends much of his time outside Dickinson advocating for it, Dennis Johnson said.

“I think it’s important that we, at least for the foreseeable future, that we keep him free enough to do that, but to do that I think we need this other executive position,” Dennis Johnson said.

A job description is expected to be up for consideration at the April 7 Dickinson City Commission meeting.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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