A professional pressure cooker

Heidi Grindle is moving on. After 16 years as city clerk and registrar of voters, she is burned out (her words) and ready to regain some free time and peace of mind. It’s Ellsworth’s loss and we wish her well. Even the casual observer could see the diligence Grindle applied to her work, most especially elections. Also, the kindness and professionalism she extended to the public and to her colleagues at City Hall. She has worked there since 1996 in various roles.

In 2018, the Maine Town and City Clerks’ Association named Grindle Clerk of Year. “She is without question one of the most dedicated public servants I’ve ever worked with,” said former city manager David Cole at the time. Even then, Grindle commented on the stressfulness of elections. Then came 2020. The pandemic and a bitter presidential race were a double whammy. Voting procedures changed. Moods soured. Growing distrust in the integrity of the election process at the national level at times spilled over in small-town Maine. Some people were mean. It was undeserved and it came at a cost. We need more like Grindle in city government, not fewer.

Many employers, including in the public sector, are struggling to hire and retain experienced workers. Millions of Americans quit their jobs this year, including 4.3 million in August. Some clever wordsmith has coined the term The Great Resignation. Meanwhile, there were 10.4 million job openings nationally at August’s end.

An analysis in the Harvard Business Review considered why the greatest increase in resignations was among employees around the midpoint of their careers. It theorized that the shift to remote work in many industries may have made employers nervous about hiring inexperienced candidates. Greater demand for mid-career employees created more incentive for them to leave their former jobs. Many workers may also have put off pursuing other opportunities during the pandemic and now feel more confident making the jump.

The article continues, “And of course, many of these workers may have simply reached a breaking point after months and months of high workloads, hiring freezes and other pressures, causing them to rethink their work and life goals.” Ding, ding!

Talented people will land somewhere, but there’s are hard shoes to fill when they go. Schools, police departments, courthouses and municipal offices are struggling to fill openings. High turnover is particularly challenging in local institutions where familiar faces and continuity build public confidence.

Hancock County faces enough demographic challenges to its workforce without burning out the existing labor pool. Let’s find ways to help public employers (ultimately us) hang onto good people. A simple place to start is with that basic assumption — that these are good people acting in good faith. Unless proven otherwise, behave accordingly.

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