By Eugene Sutherland
The Alexandria City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday, Aug. 26, to confirm one staff appointment of Mayor Jacques Roy while delaying another.
Council members to a man said there was no rancor between themselves and Roy regarding the potential hires. The only question, they said, was whether the city would get the “bang for its buck” from the appointments, given the $80,000 salary that would come with their roles.
Up for vote were the appointments of Greg Foster as director of human resources and Jannease Seastrunk as director of community services. Seastrunk, the longtime head of the non-profit Shepherd Center, was approved with no apparent hesitation. Council members said they were satisfied of Seastrunk’s qualifications through her interaction with people in her former capacity and that the duties of the position itself justify the salary.
Foster’s appointment, however, was met with concern. Not so much regarding his qualifications as much as whether the position justified the financial commitment to the position and whether it duplicated some services of already existing positions within City Hall.
The two appointments had previously been delayed twice. There is no timetable on how long the current delay might be resolved.
In related news, former community services director Lisa Harris was appointed as chief of policy and compliance, as per Roy’s recommendation.
Heading into the meeting, council members Charles Fowler and Charles F. Smith Jr. were both on record as supporting both hires. Member Louis Marshall did not. Member Roosevelt L. Johnson took what he called a “wait-and-see” approach. Member Harry Silver turned the matter back to Roy, calling it a “moot point.”
“We want to make sure we make the decision that is right financially and economically,” Johnson said. “We just needed to make sure we’re all on the same page here. There was no arguing or anything like that. This is about doing what’s best for the city.”
There had been concerns the positions duplicated already existing jobs within City Hall, thus leading to irresponsible spending. Foster already draws an annual salary of $80,000 from the city.
“What I look at is that Jannease Seastrunk has a record of dealing with people in the community,” Smith said. “With her community service work, she meets every qualification. What we need to do now is figure out the need for a human resources director, what it involves and whether the position will mix with others.”
Marshall said that among the sticking points regarding the human resources position is that the position gives more leeway to potential hires who happen to have criminal or other negative backgrounds. The city has had issues meeting the number of hires needed because of what he feels to be harsh standards.
“We have to give people a break,” Marshall said. “Our Judeo-Christian society believes in giving people a second chance. But as much as anything, you’re talking about an $80,000 salary. That’s a lot of money, especially at a time when people are having trouble just paying energy bills.”
Foster would replace Joe Page, who had been paid $60,000 to perform the duties of the position.
Roy could not be reached for comment after the meeting.