County buyout leaves us a bit brain-drained

Brain drain (n) - depletion or loss of intellectual and technical personnel

Last week, we said goodbye to a large group of our employees. We call them "our" employees because, well, they worked for us, the taxpayers. We hired them, paid them and often let them know how we felt about their job performance - good and bad.

County government has been handed the same riddle many in the private sector face: How to do more with less.

Part of the county's answer was to offer early retirement to employees. As a result, Friday was "last day" for 202 county workers. Most departments, including fire, law enforcement, corrections, parks, planning and transportation, are affected.

No doubt the week's retirement parties were a mix of celebration and sadness.

But faced with a diminished tax digest from which to draw revenue, the county initiated the buyout plan among several other measures. This reduction in work force, we're told, will save the county $55 million over the next three years.

It's logical to assume that those nearing retirement and/or with the most years of service would be the most likely to take the buyout. And that's exactly what happened. According to Glenn Stephens, the new county administrator, the 202 employees represent 4,400 years of experience - an average of 21 years per worker.

Additionally, many of those who learned the ropes while working their way up to top leadership positions are gone. Among them: No. 2 county executive Deputy County Administrator Mike Comer, Fire Chief Steve Rolader and Assistant County Administrator Lisa Johnsa. County Administrator Jock Connell, Gwinnett's chief executive, will retire at the end of the year.

The loss of the cumulative knowledge of these individuals and all the other retirees creates a severe brain drain on the county at a time when that knowledge is needed most. It will be understandably difficult for the "new team" to step into this challenge.

Stephens, the county's new top executive concurs: "We will miss the people themselves and the positive daily impact they have on our operations, but I have confidence that remaining employees will rise to the occasion and continue to provide superior county services."

We believe the same but won't underestimate what the loss of this experience means to county services.

No one is irreplaceable, but replacing 4,400 years of experience is a formidable task. To those retiring, your dedication is appreciated and your efforts will be missed.

The unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the Gwinnett Daily Post. Columns, letters to the editor and cartoons reflect the opinions of the individuals who penned them. It is the policy of the Gwinnett Daily Post to correct all errors of fact. Corrections usually run on Page 4A.