The Town of Berlin’s Human Resources Director Jeff Fleetwood is typically in the office well before 7:00 AM each morning – probably a habit left over from his career with the U.S. Army. He can frequently be seen walking around Berlin during these early morning hours and often uses this time as an opportunity to touch base with some of the field departments that start their day earlier than most. Jeff prides himself on being open and out-going with the Town’s employees with a willingness to get to know who the employees are and what they do. He believes this to be a vital part of his role as Berlin’s sole HR employee and welcomes these opportunities to network. Jeff believes networking can provide a significant amount of information that may be relative to his role, but also could be beneficial to other department heads within the Town of Berlin.
After retiring from the Army (having served as a personnel manager for many years), Jeff spent an additional 15 years in the private sector in Human Resources positions from generalist to director. While Jeff obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Government and Politics, he indicates that most Human Resources professionals typically have a combination of a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree as well as relevant experience and possibly certifications in the field.
Jeff defines the philosophy of Human Resources as working toward the mutual benefit and satisfaction of both the employee and employer in their relationship. “At the end of the day, if I’ve worked out the best benefit and compensation packet that meets the employees’ needs, while maintaining the goals and culture of the Town, I know that I’ve done the best job for the employee, the Mayor and Council, and, indirectly, the taxpayers of the Town.”
What services does your department provide?
- Employee Recruitment
- Payroll processing
- Worker’s Compensation matters
- Administration of the Maryland State Retirement plan
- Administration of unemployment compensation
- Assisting Department Heads with personnel matters
- Maintenance of employee records
- Knowledge and application of employment law
- Risk Management for the Town as a whole
- Benefits management
What are the typical day-to-day functions for you?
During the course of a typical day I have numerous interactions with Department Heads, employees and benefits and service providers that relate to personnel. Employees often have questions or need my assistance with interfacing with health insurance providers and similar vendors. Department Heads often need assistance in addressing situations that arise with personnel. In alternating weeks, I perform payroll functions in conjunction with the Finance Department. I also enjoy being able to provide impromptu safety sessions with field staff as part of my role in risk management.
What changes have you experienced or implemented for your department and the way it functions? What changes would you most like to see?
I have made great strides in organizing personnel related records and making the “flow” between personnel, department directors, the Mayor and Council, and even outside service providers more consistent and functional. I’ve increased the contact between field staff and “Town Hall” by going to them and encouraging them to come to me when appropriate.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Successfully assisting personnel, both line staff and department managers with both internal and external issues. Internal would be employee/employer and external would be the employee, and often his or her spouse, in working with insurers and other service providers.
What is a common misconception people have about your department? What is an aspect of your job that is less enjoyable?
A common misconception is that Human Resources is there to keep a thumb on the employee. I spend far more time working on tasks that have nothing to do with employee behavior or discipline than people often think. Having said that, those times when I do have to participate in a disciplinary matter are certainly the less enjoyable moments of my job.
Where do you see your department in 10 years? What is on your “wish list” for your department?
If the Town staff grows significantly in the next 10 years, I would definitely have a need for at least one administrative staff. I would also like to develop more electronic record keeping, particularly for employment archives. As far as a “wish” list…I’d really like an office with a window!