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YOUNGSTOWN Panel, mayor fill civil service post



Published: Sat, August 18, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Education was the difference, a commissioner said.

By ROGER G. SMITH

CITY HALL REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A nine-month search for a new civil service administrator finally has resulted in a hiring.

Jennifer Labatte, 29, of Poland, starts Wednesday. Her salary is $44,419 and she will be required to move into the city.

She was the unanimous choice of the civil service commission and Mayor George M. McKelvey.

Richard Groucutt retired as civil service administrator in December after 22 years. He since has returned to write tests part time as they've been needed. Two administrative assistants have been running the office.

Groucutt will train Labatte for several months, working part time, said James Messenger, a civil service commissioner.

Labatte has a master's degree in human resource management from Troy State University in Norfolk, Va. She was living in Norfolk where her husband was in the military until moving back to the area recently. She graduated from Youngstown State University in 1995.

"It came down to education. Those are pretty good qualifications," Messenger said. "She appears to be first class, from what we can tell."

How she did: Labatte finished fifth on the civil service test and did well on a second, written portion, which involved studying material and writing test questions.

That's an important characteristic the city was looking for.

Groucutt was among the few administrators in the state who wrote his own tests, and he rarely ended up in court over challenges to the tests. That saved the city a lot of money, civil service board members have said.

Most cities contract out their tests, and the exams face court challenges more often, they said.

None of the candidates who passed the test had experience working in a civil service office, and McKelvey has said the probation period will be crucial.

The person selected must demonstrate the ability to do the job or will be let go after the probation time if that doesn't happen, he said. The city can't be saddled for years with a civil service director who can't handle the job, one of the most important in city hall, he said.

rgsmith@vindy.com




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