Town alters ordinance, makes some director positions classified

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The town of Taos wants to fill three director positions that have been empty for as much as two months.

The town is short directors for the library, planning and zoning department, and the Youth and Family Center after the employees in those positions either resigned or retired. All of the vacant director positions are at-will, which means they can be fired without cause. One of the departments may be restructured and the town is changing some of the employment rules for other director positions in an effort to keep them filled.

The town has had a difficult time in the past filling some of the positions, but officials have said they have high hopes some of the interim directors filling the positions in the meantime will stay on. In addition, some of the employees have undergone some "cross-training" to be able to fill multiple job roles while working at the town.

"You won't see a rush to fill open management positions and may not see them advertised due to having people already groomed for those positions," Town Manager Rick Bellis said in an email. "The mayor and council, as well as the key advisory boards and commissions, as well as staff, have agreed that the goal should not be to rush to fill key leadership positions just to fill the opening, but to work to train or find the right person to ensure a seamless transition and to take each department to the next level, especially where a new generation of technologies and programming are called for to improve or expand services to the public with the existing resources available. "

Of the 10 major town departments, the planning and zoning department may be the one restructured in the future, according to Bellis. He said the town is working with the state to create an "in-house building department," which will change the job description. Because of this, the position has not yet been advertised.

The library director position has been vacant since January 1, and the town has been actively searching for someone to fill the position.

Nearly 30 applicants applied for the job, according to Bellis. The pool of candidates has been narrowed down to less than ten.

The at-will status of some director positions was changed by the town council in February.

A newly approved personnel ordinance now allows for some directors to be hired as classified employees, which means they can only be removed with cause, such as dereliction of job responsibilities.

According to town officials, before the ordinance change, new administrations would take over and let go previous directors and hire new ones. The changes, often political, made the director positions more like temporary jobs rather than careers.

The change to the ordinance creates more of a sense of permanency in the positions of the chief of police, town clerk, town attorney and the town finance director, said Bellis.

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