Former county commissioner defends employees


October 06, 2011
OSSIPEE— Despite living 1,800 miles away, and thanks to technology, longtime Carroll County Commissioner Marge Webster remains a friend to many county employees who seek her advice and lean on her to sound their complaints against the current administration.

Webster left her home in Puerto Rico to spend two weeks in New Hampshire last month, attending the opening of the county's new nursing home, spending time with friends and catching up on some unfinished business.

She made it a point to attend the county commissioner's meeting Sept. 14. She did not single out any of the commissioners but addressed the board, chastising them for being out-of-touch with the county's 300-plus employees.

Webster served as county commissioner for two decades. She said since moving out of state, many, many employees have spoken to her about issues on the county complex. She said the employees don't feel comfortable talking to the current board members. She also pointed out that citizens who attend the commissioner's meetings feel like they are being interrogated for raising simple concerns or asking questions.

Commissioner Asha Kenney said she did not understand why employees would be contacting Webster instead of talking to the commissioners. At the meeting the week following Webster's visit Kenney said employees also call her all the time with concerns they have. This raised the ire of the other two commissioners who said that if Kenney is getting complaints from employees she should be sharing those with the other two commissioners. "If we don't know what the problems are we can't fix them," said Commissioner Dorothy Solomon.

In a phone interview with Webster this week, Webster said she receives two or three phone calls or emails a week from county employees and that she is very concerned about the antics and behavior. With two decades of experience, she said, she knows the employees well and is "totally appalled they are not being respected for the wonderful job they do."

She said her whole reason for making comments at the commissioner's meeting is that the morale amongst the jail inmates and nursing home residents, both in new facilities, is at an all-time high while the morale of the county employees is at an all-time low.

She said this is very disheartening given the amount of progress to improve employee-employer relations in the past decade or so.

She said the best advice she received when becoming commissioner so many years ago came from former commissioner Brenda Presby who told her to "spend the first year after election listening and learning and you will be a good commissioner." Webster said all newly-elected commissioners should follow this advice and really get to know the duties of commissioner and the functions of all departments. Even longtime commissioners should spend time keeping in touch onsite with the ever-evolving needs and daily operations of all county departments.

She also said the commissioners should be the voice at county delegation meetings for department heads and should be protecting their employees from the often tumultuous delegation sessions.

"The Commissioners are the only voice to the delegation for the employees. The Commissioners need to know and understand their jobs so they can confidently defend the needs of the employees whether for equipment for safety or to lessen the liability of the county. The employees are trying to do a job and the stress being caused by the current behaviors is unnecessary. Trust and respect is earned and that is the only way you will ever know what is 'really' happening in one of the county's largest businesses. Just do not leave your manners at home, close your month, and open your ears!" said Webster.

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