Addressing the commission
Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for the opportunity to address both you and the citizens of Blount County here tonight. My name is Joey Parton, and I am an employee of the Blount County Sheriff's office where I have been employed for five years. I have come tonight to ask for your help. I am well aware that the budget woes that Blount County now faces were inherited by many of you. Many of you had no involvement in bringing about the problems you now face. You are, however, going to be responsible for finding the solution, and I hope that this at least is one of the reasons that you sought the office you now hold.
I come before you tonight to tell you that we, as employees of the Sheriff's office, can not continue to go forward with the status quo. The Blount County Sheriff's office is fast moving toward being a training ground for other agencies in the area. Men and women seeking a career in law enforcement are coming to Blount County where they can be hired, attend an academy, get a small amount of experience for their resume, and then move on to other agencies where their entry level salary is several thousand dollars higher than it is here after 2 to 4 years of employment. Since July 1, 2006, 34 employees have left the Sheriff's office to move on to other jobs. Their reason for leaving is simple: Salary and benefits.
This leaves the employees and administration, as well as the citizens of Blount County, in a very precarious position. The administration now has to find a qualified person to fill this vacancy. The training staff has to train them at a cost of thousands of dollars. The citizens of Blount County ultimately pay for this, as well, as the less tangible cost that they are less safe and secure because of fewer trained officers on the streets. This is a revolving door that has to be stopped.
If you are attempting to manage a business, you recruit the best employees, the cream of the crop. You then train these individuals to do the best job possible. Then you retain these employees to make your business run as smooth as possible. The Blount County Sheriff's office is in position to do only one of these with the current budget status: Train. And at that we do an excellent job.
Blount County deputies are some of the best trained in the state. The problem is, we are training them for everyone else, and not retaining them for ourselves.
We are unable to recruit. How do you recruit to a job where someone will be paid substantially less than at other agencies, and where their health benefits will cost more, but pay for less?
Retention is not possible. How can you expect someone to work on a job long-term when they cannot adequately provide for their family? As I said before, I have been an employee here for five years, and I have been forced to work a second and sometimes third job to provide for my family. And, sadly, most of my colleagues have to do the same. I became a deputy sheriff to help people, to help those that have problems that they cannot solve on their own. Why do I have to work a second job to subsidize my income so that I can continue to do a job that I love?
I hope that you as commissioners became involved in public service for the same reason that we as deputies did: To help people with resolving the tough problems that they themselves cannot resolve. This county has problems, problems that will continue to grow exponentially over time if they are not solved. I am here to give notice, ladies and gentlemen that we, as county employees, are fed up. We are tired of the revolving door of qualified employees leaving because they can no longer afford to work here. We are tired of being passed by year-after-year in pay and benefits by other agencies in this county, while we are expected to answer an ever-increasing number of calls for service and enforce the laws in a much larger area. When you factor in the rising cost of living in this area, my pay continues to go down. We are tired of risking our lives daily for below-average pay and benefits, and we want that to change. The employees of the Blount County Sheriff's office are professional men and women who chose a career, not just a job, a career in law enforcement, and we deserve to be compensated as such. We are asking for a salary and benefits package that is equal to the other law enforcement agencies in this county.
It does not make sense economically to continue on the path we are currently on, paying thousands of dollars to train when you can not retain employees. I chose law enforcement as my career so that I could help resolve problems that others could not resolve themselves. Now county employees have a serious problem that we can not resolve, and we are looking to you for a resolution.
Thank you for your time and attention.