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Growing with the times

Two new staff members have joined city hall. Sheri Spezze, legal assistant, center left, and Ali Huber, HR assistant, center right, both started this year. They are joined by Jan Murtha, city attorney, left, and Shelly Nameniuk, HR coordinator, right. The new hires will allow the city to be more responsive to the community's needs and concerns, Murtha said. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)

City Hall has added two new staff members to better meet the needs and concerns of the growing population.

Sheri Spezze will serve as legal assistant, a newly created position with the city.

Spezze, a California native, has a background in budget and contract management. She has worked for the Washington State Department of Health, and moved to North Dakota to be closer to son and his family.

Among Spezze's duties, she will track budgets, set up documents, and establish processes to monitor all documents that need the city attorney's review.

Ali Huber will serve as human resources assistant, a position that has not been filled since Fall 2018.

An Ohio native, Huber attended University of Cincinnati, and spent 10 years in HR for private healthcare companies.

Huber's duties include applicant tracking, creating job postings, and scheduling interviews with prospective employees.

The new staff members are greatly needed, City Attorney Jan Murtha said.

"What many people have probably noticed in the last 10 years is that the population of the city of Dickinson has almost doubled," she said. "During that same time period, the number of city employees has almost also doubled."

Only 10 years ago, there were fewer than 100 city employees. There are currently more than 200, Murtha said.

The HR department was started in 2012 by Shelly Nameniuk, HR coordinator, and for several years it was a solo effort.

"As the city grows, the demands on city staff, city departments increase," Murtha said. "As that increases, the number of employees increase. As the number of employees increase, the needs of the systems increase."

Government can't be as responsive as private industry, Murtha said.

"If we see a need all of a sudden, we can't just decide we're going to allocate more money in this quarter than last," she said. "We have a budget process and a review process."

The result is a sense of playing catch-up, Murtha said.

"We've been trying to update not only our needs in various departments, but the processes we have in the city to be able to respond to the increased needs of the community," she said. "What used to work 10 years ago when there was less employees and less population doesn't work today."

Already, several areas have been identified that can be improved with the added assistance, such as the contract tracking process.

"There are certain websites that we can't put a link to our application on there," Nameniuk said. "We don't have that capability without an applicant tracking program."

Such limitations affect the city's ability to hire, Nameniuk said.

"You get some applicants, if it isn't immediate and easy, they're not going to apply. They go on to the next website or job," she said. "I think we're losing a lot of candidates because we don't have that capability."

The city still has many open positions, Murtha said.

"We are having a difficult time finding applicants, getting applicants in, to not just fill the positions, but even to just apply," she said. "We are still struggling with filling positions and competing with private industry."

Both Spezze and Huber are welcome additions to the city, Murtha said.

"We're very appreciative of the insights and experiences from their prior employment that they're bringing in and adding to our offices," she said.

Huber started Dec. 31, and is impressed by the city's work schedule.

"We do half days on Friday. I never got to do that before," she said. "Healthcare is very rigid, you have to be there because it's a 24-hour operation."

Spezze started Jan. 22. She moved to Dickinson in May. Having visited many times before, she is enjoying being a part of the community.

"People are nice. I like the work. I like the drive," she said. "It's four minutes from my house."