SHERIDAN — Five of the city of Sheridan’s high-level employees took their skills elsewhere in part due to salary offers the city couldn’t match.
Planning and economic development director Robert Briggs, public works director Nic Bateson and operations superintendent Mathers Heuck all received counteroffers from the city to try and retain them, but the city could not meet compensation offered elsewhere.
“They had extraordinary compensation offers on the table and even with our best efforts to counter those proposals, we were not able to get in shouting distance of where they were,” city administrator Mark Collins said.
Robert Briggs will head to the city of Cheyenne to act as that community’s planning director position.
Nic Bateson will move into the private sector, serving as engineering and sales director with EMIT Technologies in Sheridan.
Mathers Heuck will work as facilities director for Sheridan County School District 2.
Finance and administrative director Jim Harmon retired after serving 19 months in the position and City Councilor Jesus Rios was promoted from chief operating officer to chief executive officer within his company, Ptolemy Data Systems. Collins said, on average, the individuals leaving were receiving around a 40 percent bump in pay compared to what the city could offer.
“These are extraordinarily good, strong people in their profession and other organizations have recognized that and have made them tremendous offers and we’re so happy for them, both personally and professionally, that they’re getting these opportunities going forward,” Collins said.
Mayor Roger Miller said after hearing of Heuck’s plans to resign for a position with SCSD2, the city offered him Bateson’s job and he accepted. Upon returning to SCSD2 to let them know of the change, the district came back with a counteroffer the city couldn’t match.
“Am I upset about it? I don’t know that I can say I’m upset because anytime you have good people leaving to better jobs, that’s actually a good sign that your business is running well,” Miller said.
With what Collins referred to as “strong bench strengths” within the city, some of the positions vacated have already been filled with interim positions. City engineer Lane Thompson will serve as interim public works director; Cecilia Good currently serves as interim city clerk; and Todd Watkins is interim city treasurer.
“We’re not losing any ground, we’re not having any gaps on important projects and initiatives and service levels,” Collins said. “We’re continuing at a really good clip and a really good pace and that’s due to some really good people and some bench strength in the city.”
Collins said the city is waiting to see the developments of its financial resources in regards to how positions will be filled. The Consensus Revenue Estimating Group report in October and reports from the Wyoming Association of Municipalities will help the city determine the financial and revenue climates going forward.
“If we get any positive signals from that, certainly one of the things we want to examine is if we can go ahead and support our people wherever possible,” Collins said. “We want to take every chance to do that, but we’ve got to feel that we’re in a financial position to be able to do so.”
When checking in with Gillette last week, Collins said the neighboring municipality had seven senior-level positions vacated in the last few months. Collins said Cheyenne also lost personnel recently.
“I think quite frankly what happens is as we start to see economic growth across the country and across the Intermountain West specifically, we’re going to see movement, we’re going to see people that get opportunities,” Collins said. “We’re going to see that movement begin and we’re certainly starting to see the results of that.”
Miller reassured area residents that the city of Sheridan remains strong despite its leadership losing high-level talent.
“As the other job announcements get out there, we feel very confident that very qualified people will come and apply for those positions, even for the pay that we have available,” Miller said. “We may not be able to compete at a Fort Collins or Denver level, but we can definitely compete at the level of Sheridan.”
The city council position remains open and the city is currently accepting letters from those interested.
“It’s bittersweet,” Collins said. “You feel great for those people that they’re getting some new opportunities, but then you have to fill gaps on your own side because it just comes with the territory.”