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Duquesne Seeking Public Works Director

Council suggests allowing candidates to substitute experience for education

By Nick Zurawsky
The Tube City Almanac
May 18, 2020
Posted in: Duquesne News

Duquesne is looking for a new public-works director in preparation for the summer and will consider revising its job description in an effort to attract more candidates.

The city has advertised twice recently for a new public-works director with no success, officials said at the most recent council meeting. City Manager Douglas Sample said that right now he is “wearing both hats,” as he also serves part-time as the public-works director.

The new job ad emphasizes relevant background in civic education or a related field.

In the past, the position required five years’ of relevant experience as well as a relevant bachelor’s degree, resulting in zero qualified applicants, city council members said.

The city’s recent history with public works directors has been tumultuous.  Following the swearing-in of Mayor Nickole Nesby in 2018, major changes were made to the city’s organizational chart, including the termination of the long-standing public works director, Alan Chesney. 

In the year following, the city went through two more public-works directors.  

Councilman Timothy Caldwell urged council to be realistic in its expectations for a new applicant. He said Duquesne is not able to offer a salary comparable to those made by public-works directors in other municipalities.

Caldwell said Duquesne is offering $56,000 to $58,000, while other communities are offering $74,000 to $81,000.

To attract a candidate, Caldwell proposed cutting the amount of relevant experience needed to two years, or reducing the educational requirement and requiring five or more years of experience instead.

Nesby noted that a previous public-works director received a $55,000 annual salary but was not able to perform building inspections, forcing the city to contract a third-party to do inspections.

That's why the city needs to hold out for a qualified candidate, she said.

Councilwoman Elaine Washington pointed out that not all good public-works directors have a bachelor's degree and instead work their way up through various public works positions. 

Following discussion, council agreed previous experience rather than credentials would be the most important qualification.

No official action was taken, but a new advertisement for the position is expected to be drafted by the next meeting.

In other business:

Despite complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, city council plans to continue the part-time summer help program with the Phase 4 Learning Center.

Sample said he wants to cut the number of paid interns and hire fewer youth to the program but no official decision was reached. Council plans to provide personal protective equipment for the incoming Phase 4 employees and to work with Phase 4 to assure that the employees are fully protected.

Nick Zurawsky is a freelance writer in Pittsburgh. He may be reached at nickzurawsky@gmail.com.

Originally published May 18, 2020.

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