Mar 12, 2015

Events coordinator to get same pay as fair director

Park County Commissioners are expanding and changing the job description of the fair director, but they don’t want to change the position’s pay.

Commissioners decided last week to set the salary of the new county events coordinator at roughly $48,000 — about the same amount currently paid to Park County Fair Director Jennifer Lohrenz, whose position is being scrapped at the end of June in favor of the new post.

“I think what we’ve told the public in previous meetings (is) that this would be cost neutral,” Commissioner Loren Grosskopf said March 3, to unanimous agreement from his fellow commissioners.

The events coordinator will oversee the Park County Fairgrounds in Powell year-round — as the fair director currently does — and will have the added task of handling all large public events held on county properties — such as on the grounds of the Park County Complex in Cody.

Commissioners have said the change was made necessary, in part, by a rising number of public events. There’s also been conflict between the fair board-directed fair staff who manage the grounds and commission-directed buildings and grounds department staffers who maintain them.

Under the new structure, all fair staffers ultimately will answer to commissioners rather than to the fair board.

Some fair board members feel that taking away all board-controlled staff minimizes their role in the fair’s management. Fair Board Chairman Mike Demoney called the change “really messed up,” and Vice Chairman Linda Nielsen said it felt like “our legs were kind of cut out from underneath of us.”
Commissioners insist that little will be different.

“The way I see it, the fair board’s function is not going to change,” Commission Chairman Joe Tilden told Nielsen last week. “You’re still going to be charged with the production of the fair and any other help that you can be for additional functions that we have down there.”

The job description for the events coordinator says they will “assume full management and leadership of the Park County Fair in cooperation and conjunction with the Park County Fair Board.”

“We’re not cutting you out of giving input,” Commissioner Tim French told Nielsen. “Will you make the final decisions? I don’t know about that, but you will have direct input into the events coordinator.”

Beyond the concern with the change in structure, Nielsen again expressed worries that the commissioners are asking too much by expanding the position beyond the fair.

“It seems like it’s an awful lot for one person to handle, knowing what Jennifer (Lohrenz) handles on her own throughout the year,” Nielsen said.

She said it’s not a three-month-a-year job, but a full-time one, “and it is a little scary for us, because sometimes you look at Jen and say, ‘You need a break.’”

“It’s a position that ultimately is going to evolve,” responded Commission Bucky Hall, adding, “The possibility exists that this person might ultimately need a full-time staff assistant. I mean, it might evolve that way.”

Hall and French said Tuesday that they expect the coordinator will have little free time in the summer, but should see things slow down in the winter.

“There are some of us (on the fair board) that I guess are a little bit, hostile, I guess you would say,” said fair board member Linda Nielsen.

“I would attest to that, you’re absolutely correct,” said Commissioner Tim French.

A total of 14 people applied for the post by Monday’s deadline. The pool includes current fair director Lohrenz.

French said the board likely will whittle the field down to five or six candidates and then conduct interviews.

Communication between the board and commission has been strained for some time. Nielsen said she learned of the commission’s plans to shuffle the fair staff when she read about it in the Cody Enterprise.

Nielsen said last week she plans to attend all the commission’s discussions about the events coordinator going forward.

“There are some of us (on the fair board) that I guess are a little bit, hostile, I guess you would say,” Nielsen started. “But I don’t see why ...”

“I would attest to that, you’re absolutely correct,” French jumped in.

Both he and Nielsen said they hope to see less hostility going forward.


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