By Justin Boron
The Clayton County Board of Commissioners is shaking up its office with a personnel reorganization that, among other new positions, would add a public relations specialist and a constituent services coordinator to the staff.
All of the personnel realignment - which would add and delete several positions for a net gain of three new staff slots - will depend on whether the proposed staff improvements are approved by the county commission as part of next year's budget.
The public relations specialist and the constituent services coordinator, earning a combined $115,000, are part of the county government's effort to be more responsive to the public and ease the workload on county officials weighed down by citizen requests, said County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell.
"I get close to 300 calls per week," he said.
The public relations specialist would work with media requests and disseminate information on county initiatives, he said.
The constituent services position would field complaints and concerns of the citizens.
Currently, commissioners handle citizen requests within their own district but struggle to keep up with all the calls.
"I want someone dedicated to responding to the constituency for the commission," he said.
Bill Horton has served as a temporary spokesman for the Board of Commissioners since early April as a contract employee.
He has said he would not seek either job if they approved in the budget because he already has prior business plans.
The staff improvements come at a time when financial constraints forced Bell and three other commissioners to block several pay raises for state officials and when other county departments were turned down for personnel improvements.
Commissioner Carl Rhodenizer said both positions would be helpful to the community. However, he said they shouldn't work to limit access to the government.
Rhodenizer also said he wanted to ensure the constituent service coordinator would be accountable.
"If I have a constituent call me with a problem, I know it gets fixed because I handle it myself," he said.
Commissioner Wole Ralph said spikes in public interest for issues like recreation centers and zonings illustrate the need for positions that will work to open up government.
"We don't have enough citizen input on prominent issues like zoning and quality of life issues," he said.
Ralph also said the new positions shouldn't be used to block the public from elected officials and staff.
Bell also said he is implementing an e-mail forum for the public in which citizens can submit questions to the chairman and he will respond to them.
He said the question and answers will be supplemented by a "night with the chairman" during which citizens can show up at the administration building and hold audience with him.
The first one is scheduled June 16 from 5 to 9 p.m.