A good employee is hard to find.

For a rural city with a limited budget, they’re even harder to keep, City Manager Jim Jeffers recently explained to the Nacogdoches City Council.

Last year was a good example, he says, when the city was forced to face the fact that it couldn’t hire a full-time electrician.

“After we looked at it, we said, ‘If somebody comes to work for us for what we pay, we probably don’t want them,’” he said. “So we began contracting that out. We don’t have access to them like you would an employee, so you’re having them work less hours and paying out more money. But quite frankly we can’t afford to pay a competitive salary for an electrician.”

Such is the case for many careers that require certifications and specialized skills. And as more Baby Boomers enter retirement, competition to find suitable replacements will get more fierce.

“The workforce following the Baby Boomers is a lot smaller, and we hear that from our private sector employers,” Jeffers said. “They are having difficulty finding bodies, period, and they are having greater difficulty finding employees with the skillset they need.”

Struggling to keep a full staff particularly in its police and utility departments, the city is no different, and Jeffers said there is no easy way to address that.

“You can’t just throw money at it — it blows up your pay scale,” he said. “We still have an awful lot of work to do in recruiting and retaining.”

The city council on June 4 did approve a 3 percent cost of living adjustment for all full-time city employees in what Jeffers said is a necessary step in retaining and recruiting staff.

But it’s only a step.

“Even if we pay more, the workforce isn’t out there — there’s nobody for us to go and hire,” he said. “It’s an issue we’re having discussions with the state about. We don’t know what the answer is yet, but something has got to give.”

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