The board plans to hire interns instead of secretaries to help them

A proposal to add part-time administrative support to the mayor and council members of Antioch was postponed, with council members instead asking the city to consider hiring interns.

Mayor Lamar Thorpe had first proposed the new spending at a council meeting in mid-December, but the item was delayed to allow three separate votes on the three part-time positions: one for mayor, one for districts 1 and 4; and one for Districts 2 and 3. At $18.53 to $25 an hour, the new positions will cost the city $45,000 to $65,000 a year, with money coming from the general fund.

Currently, the Secretary to the City Manager provides such assistance to Council and the Mayor. The new employees would help prepare and file documents, keep records and perform receptionist duties, according to the staff report.

The public was mixed on its reaction to the new positions during Friday’s special meeting.

“I believe that if a board member works somewhere else full time and either has an elderly child or a singer or someone they are responsible for, then they should have the option of having an assistant help them with a part. from the city. business,” said Leslie May.

Melissa Case expressed concern because other positions in the city are not filled.

“Why are we filling assistants when our other positions that we really need on city staff are not being filled?”

Bur Edgar Martinez suggested the city consider creating internships rather than permanent positions.

“We have a local college here, Los Medanos, and I think we need to give opportunities to students who are focusing on…political science or whatever,” he said. “I mean to help them get their foot in the door.”

ProTem Mayor Tamisha Torres-Walker agreed, although at first she wanted a part-time secretary.

“It was my idea,” she said. “I was like, hey, this government hasn’t caught up with the growth of this town. And something has to be done and council members often need help returning those phone calls and emails and attending at these very important county, state, and federal meetings, so that we can tap into the resources to be able to govern effectively.

However, she has since changed her mind, she said.

“The right direction will be internships,” she said. “It will be internships, not just because people might be upset that we are creating more jobs – because more jobs will be created, especially for a growing city that needs a functioning government – ​​but because these should be positions that youth and young adults who live in this city have the opportunity to become public policy interns or fellows to learn how to work in local government.

Although Antioch has never offered separate administrative support for mayor or council members, a check of other towns of similar size shows that this is not unusual. In a similarly sized Richmond, the mayor has a handful of aides while council members share a liaison but sometimes seek interns or part-time help. In nearby Concord, city council members and the mayor receive support from the city manager’s administrative assistant, but can temporarily hire more assistants to help them, while in the smaller towns of Brentwood, members council and the mayor are assisted by the assistant city manager.

Even so, Thorpe, who has worked with interns in the past, said he preferred a permanent position.

“We train them… but the frustrating thing is that they leave (later),” he said of college interns.

City Attorney Thomas Smith, however, pointed out that there are legal differences between the positions of secretary and intern and the board agreed to reconsider once those nuances are worked out.

The board also briefly discussed a possible four-year 16% pay rise to take effect in 2025, but the point did not move forward.

The last time board members approved a raise was in 2019 — the first in 13 years — which took effect in 2021, raising salaries to $1,604 a month, and each year the board must review the matter in accordance with city rules, the mayor said.

Thorpe was in favor of a raise, but Torres-Walker and Councilwoman Monica Wilson said they weren’t. Councilor Lori Ogorchock previously voted against a raise and Councilor Mike Barbanica was absent.

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