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Search for county engineer continues

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Presenting a plaque to retiring engineer Ray Rendon, left, County Judge Richard Evans noted, "It is with regret I give you this plaque. If I don't, will you stay?"

A valued member of the Bandera County employment team on the cusp of retiring proved bittersweet for county commissioners - actually, not sweet, but plenty bitter. Despite an extensive search, no replacement has yet been identified.
County Engineer Ray Rendon's last day of work was Friday, Feb. 27, and his colleagues surprised him with a reception and commemoration after commissioners court on Thursday, Feb. 26. Earlier, commissioners had been equally "surprised" during a Feb. 19 special-called meeting when a second round of advertising for the important position turned up another goose egg.
Actually, of the three applicants, the one deemed most interview-worthy had withdrawn his application after his wife decided she didn't want to relocate to Bandera from Oklahoma. Two other applicants were not qualified for the position.
Similarly, an even-earlier search had resulted in the county receiving no applications. That search had occurred during the natural gas-fracking boom in South Texas, leading Judge Richard Evans to observe, "There's no shortage of jobs for engineers in this part of Texas right now."
On Feb. 26, Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Grimes gave the court information about using search firms to come up with viable candidates for Rendon's job. Basically the two ways so-called "headhunting" firms work are on retained and contingency contracts. The latter method requires payment only after a suitable candidate is identified and actually hired by the client.
"Two firms indicated that the base minimum salary of $85,000 per year is not sufficient for the type of experience we require," Grimes said. According to Grimes, the salary offered was apparently thought to be more suitable for an engineer-in-training - one with a degree but who had not yet registered or was newly registered.
Additionally, both firms indicated that a minimum salary of $100,000 would attract the experience county desired.
During the discussion, Evans offered two options, continuing an in-house search or possibly hiring a professional search firm.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris noted, "If this is what it takes, this is what it takes. I'd go with a search firm using the contingency method because we need an engineer."
"Where will we get the money?" asked Precinct 4 Commissioner Jordan "Jody" Rutherford.
According to Auditor Christina Moreno, $20,000 had already been budgeted for the process and the rest must be taken from the budget surplus or general fund.
By a unanimous vote, commissioners selected the Avery Group based in West Lafayette, Indiana to conduct the contingency search. Their agency fee would be 20 percent of the first year salary. However, the firm also offered a "60-day replacement guarantee."
Additionally, Moreno said she had received a resume from Monster.com and Grimes indicated another one had been forwarded to him.
Meanwhile, Rendon has retired and the search for his replacement continues.