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Wilcox promoted as Carey's top adviser

Posted: Sunday, June 20, 2010

When Duane Bannock assumed the mayor's acting chief of staff position in February, he said his intention was to eliminate a top job from within the mayor's office.

While that hasn't happened, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey will combine many of his chief of staff's and special assistant's duties when his current special assistant, Susan Wilcox, steps into the chief of staff role on July 1. She will earn $81,977, an approximately $8,000 increase from her current $74,345 special assistant salary.

Bannock is leaving the position to return to his former job as the manager of the Spruce Bark Beetle Mitigation Program.

Carey officially announced the reshuffling in a statement released Friday afternoon. Amy Manuel, who currently works at Central Peninsula Hospital and was a Soldotna business owner, will serve as the mayor's new special assistant, beginning July 1.

But Manuel is not exactly Wilcox's replacement. She will earn $28,000 less than what Wilcox earned as the mayor's special assistant, from more than $74,000 down to $45,883. Carey said the pay scale decrease comes with fewer responsibilities.

"The special assistant will not have advisory responsibilities," Carey said Friday. "All the supervising responsibilities are being combined into the chief of staff (job)."

The mayor is re-writing the special assistant job description to reflect the changes, and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly will need to approve all job description adjustments.

"Ms. Wilcox's experience and knowledge will allow for merging of some duties and responsibilities within my office, and she will continue to provide focused services to the respective service areas within the Kenai Peninsula Borough," Carey said in the release.

Some of the new special assistant's responsibilities include: research and information dissemination regarding the newly formed Federal Citizens Advisory Council; determining funding for projects on/or affecting forestry land; and assisting with the mayor's presentations.

"Amy (Manuel) will not be going to staff meetings as a decision maker. Susan (Wilcox) and Duane (Bannock) and Hugh (Chumley) went to all the meetings that I asked them to go to and were full-participating members," Carey said. "I see (the new role) as a special assistant/aide who would go to meetings and be there in terms of staff support."

The mayor also hired an administrative assistant who will earn a $45,883 salary, matching his new special assistant's pay. Jessica Arness, who was the Kenai Convention and Visitor's Bureau director of marketing and membership, started her job in the mayor's office on June 17. The secretarial job had previously been filled by a temporary employee.

Bannock said the mayor's decision to keep a special assistant but lower the position's pay falls in line with his "number one goal" of saving the borough money.

"The mayor has said that he is concentrating on combining many of the duties. In one aspect, I think that's validating the point," Bannock said.

Bannock took over as the mayor's chief of staff after the mayor's previous top aide, Hugh Chumley, resigned because of family reasons.

Chumley took heat after failing to file a "Notice of Intent to do Business" form before his company sold vehicle maintenance equipment to the borough.

Assembly President Pete Sprague said the mayor's latest chief of staff choice "wasn't much of a surprise." Sprague also said the mayor is best served by having multiple assistants.

"It's such a big job and there's such a wide variety of responsibilities it would have been really tough," Sprague said of cutting an entire position from the office. "It just seems that having one staffer alone is tough when there's so many things that need to be done by the mayor's office."

Andrew Waite can be reached at andrew.waite@peninsulaclarion.com.



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