A local voice has been added to hear the issues between public employees and their government employer.
J.D. Gilbert, Ford County administrator and public information officer, has been appointed to the Governor's Public Employee Relations Board. His appointment was confirmed by the Kansas Senate Oversight Committee.
The board hears complaints from employees for government-related employers before the situation goes to litigation. The board will meet with the employee and be involved in the process. Having someone on the board from this part of the state is unusual and should have a positive impact on the area.
"Southwest Kansas is sometimes the 'community' that does not always have a seat at the table and with the sheriff and I being appointed to separate boards, we have an opportunity to represent southwest Kansas, but Ford County specifically," Gilbert said.
Two others were appointed to the board at the same time as Gilbert, and there are more positions on the board to be filled.
The board meets four times a year in Topeka. Board members keep in contact with correspondence between sessions.
Gilbert became assistant county administrator on Oct. 1, 2014. He was appointed interim administrator in January 2016 and was fully installed in June 2016.
As Ford County administrator, his office gets a lot of questions in the day-to-day operations of the county. He supervises department heads, helps in drafting the budget and public education. He reports to the Board of County Commissioners.
Gilbert said he gets a lot of time defending the people of the state. He has helped build a culture of empowerment internally to better serve the community.
"There is a lot of problem-solving and I really enjoy that," Gilbert said.
Among the tough parts of his job is building and maintaining the budget.
"Every year brings challenges whether it's a capital improvement plan or a depreciation in a place we did not expect, its hard to not reduce services and keep the same number of staff," Gilbert said. "That's always a challenge."
It was also a unique challenge when Gilbert went before the Senate Oversight Committee. Usually, when he is in a room at a county meeting, he has the top credentials.
But at the Senate hearings, there were 15 to 20 others with the same credentials telling who they were and what they wanted to do.
"It was an honor to be among those like me that had accomplished the same things," Gilbert said. "It was an honor to be appointed."
Besides having to appear in front of the Senate committee, Gilbert also underwent a Kansas Bureau of Investigation background check.