City hires first dedicated HR specialist

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SANDPOINT — Two years after the new city administrator position was created, Sandpoint now has its first designated human resources specialist as well.

Nicole Goes started in the position on Jan. 3, after working for the city of Spokane in its civil service department.

"I was interested in moving to a smaller government agency," Goes said. "I love working in government, I was just looking for something on a smaller scale."

Prior to hiring Goes, City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton said human resources was done as a team, and has been an assignment of the city clerk. For an organization with approximately 90 year-round, full-time employees, the city was "beyond due" to hire someone specifically for the human resources position.

Goes said it has been exciting for her to come in and work with Stapleton on developing the human resources program, looking at new programs to implement or revamping existing programs. Initiating a wellness program is one of her goals, she said, among several others.

In addition to her other human resource responsibilities, Goes will take on risk management, which was previously the responsibility of the city prosecutor, Katie Edburg.

"This will support us moving from a reactive claims management, risk management, to really starting to look at the prevention side of risk management," Stapleton said.

Risk management prevention includes monitoring what is happening with claims, and looking at opportunities to more proactively implement programs to prevent injury and reduce claims from the public and claims from city employees. Stapleton said claims are predominately due to employee accidents.

"So it's a good decision for our taxpayers, because it will save our taxpayers money moving forward," she said. "It's hard to quantify what that is, because in both the HR function and the risk management function, when you're focused on prevention it prevents something from happening that otherwise would happen."

One of the programs Goes said she plans to develop is monthly safety meetings led by department heads or supervisors. This month's safety meeting included winter driving, and cellphones and driving, she said.

Stapleton said the human resources position was competitive with more than 40 applicants. Goes and other finalists went through interviews with Stapleton, as well as five department heads before she chosen as the newest addition to the city.

"We had excellent candidates for this position," Stapleton said. "We had preference for someone who came from a local government, because it is a bit of a learning curve."

Goes' experience in interviewing, organizational structure, compensation determinations and analysis is balanced with the fact that she is "personable and approachable," Stapleton said, making her the "stand out candidate."

Stapleton said Goes and the addition of the human resources position will benefit the city and its residents as staff continues to analyze the city's structure.

"And on the other side, be fair our employees, create a good working environment and really keep Sandpoint as a choice employer in the region," Stapleton said, adding that applicant numbers, such as with the human resources application process, are high for the area. "I think that speaks to some of the changes we have made as an organization, particularly in the last few years."

Goes, who had never been to Sandpoint before accepting the position, said she "loves" the area.

"It's beautiful," she said. "I kept telling my husband, 'You're going to love it,' and he did."

So she and her husband, whose office is in the Spokane Valley, are selling their home and moving to Sandpoint permanently. She said the one thing that initially drew her to the city as a potential employer, however, was Stapleton.

"She’s a strong, confident woman with great leadership skills and a clear vision for the future of the organization, and she renewed my passion for public service," Goes said. "The City’s core values are in alignment with my own, in terms of transparency and being a good steward of taxpayer dollars, and I’m looking forward to working with staff, elected officials, and citizens to ensure this continues to be a great community in which to live, work and play."

Mary Malone can be reached by email at and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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