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Assistant will succeed retiring Blair official

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County leaders indicated Monday that retiring County Administrator/Chief Clerk Helen Schmitt will be succeeded by her assistant, Nicole Hemminger.

The pending action surfaced Monday during a reconvened meeting of the county salary board which voted to set Hemminger’s new salary, effective Jan. 4, at $69,014 annually.

The vote to hire Hemminger, a decision resting with county commissioners who are members of the salary board, is expected to occur this morning where a fellow applicant may be ready to ask why he didn’t get the job.

Blair County Veterans Affairs Director Patrick Young, who attended Monday’s salary board meeting, said he has more leadership experience than Hemminger. He also maintains that because he is a disabled combat veteran, the county violated Equal Employment Opportunity rules, which are in place to guarantee fair hiring practices.

Human Resources Director Katherine Swigart said Monday that the post, advertised with a salary range $69,014 to $74,000, drew about 75 applicants. Telephone interviews were conducted with 12 candidates, she said, and three of the candidates were chosen for face-to-face interviews.

When Young asked for more information about the hiring process and the applicants, including the number of veterans who applied, salary board members Bruce Erb and Ted Beam Jr. advised Young his questions were out of line and being raised at the wrong time. Young said later in the day that he apologized for his actions at the meeting but still wants answers.

Commissioners also acknowledged during the salary board meeting that they didn’t consider administrative staffing changes in light of Schmitt’s retirement and an eye on saving money.

Last week, after several weeks of searching for budget cuts, commissioners introduced a $56.78 million tentative budget for 2020, which is balanced with a 3.79 percent increase in real estate taxes and the use of almost $1.9 million in reserve money.

The state’s County Code requires the county to have a chief clerk, Erb said.

And Hemminger will have to handle the job on her own for a while, until a replacement is hired, salary board member and Controller A.C. Stickel pointed out later in the day.

The position will retain its dual title of chief clerk/county administrator.

In February 2016, county leaders agreed to add county administrator to Schmitt’s title in recognition of her wide-range of responsibilities and knowledge in an office where she worked since 1993. They also increased her salary by $10,000 in recognition of that responsibility.

In January 2017, commissioners hired Hemminger as the assistant chief clerk/county administrator. At that time, the assistant chief clerk position had been vacant since 2008, when the position was abolished to save money. Duties were handed off to Schmitt, then chief clerk, and to an administrative assistant.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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