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Lathrop HR director wears multiple hats
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LATHROP – On the March 3 Lathrop City Council agenda, one name stood out in the list of city staff.

Of the nine positions listed, from interim city manager to finance director, four of them were held by the same person: Katie Lemons. She was the acting city clerk, interim Animal Services manager, Human Resources director, and interim director of Parks and Recreation.

For the record, Lemons was hired five years ago to head the Human Resources Department. Everything else was added on as vacancies occurred and the city needed someone to take over the vacated responsibilities in the interim.

At the last council meeting, Lemons was standing in for Rick Caldeira who resigned in late February to work for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors as a legislative director.

A few months before that, she became the interim Animal Services director when Becky Enneking left that post for a job with the city of Sacramento. Fortunately, Enneking’s stint at the state capital did not last long. When Lathrop started interviewing for the position that she vacated, she submitted her application and was interviewed.

“She was by far the most qualified so we offered her the job and got her back on board. She’s a professional and she knows exactly what’s going on, so we’re really fortunate to have her back,” said Interim City Manager Cary Keaten.

That was sometime in February. Prior to Enneking’s return, Lemons held the fort at the Animal Services department for four months.

Lemons’ longest add-on job is that of interim Parks and Recreation director. She has worn that extra hat since Robin Goodman suddenly resigned about a year ago.

All those other job responsibilities, though, has not translated into additional compensation for Lemons.

“She’s management staff so she gets paid her normal salary,” Keaten explained.

Lemons has been able to keep her normal working hours and she has not received any extra compensation for the other tasks, he added.

The city has the recession to thank for that. Since the city is not hiring currently, and some of the budgeted positions have remained unfilled, the Human Resources department has been “pretty slow; it hasn’t been so busy,” Keaten said.

That freed Lemons to do the other duties in the shorthanded departments, he said.

“She’s stepped up and filled in the gap and she has done a good job stepping up and making sure everything’s covered. She has done everything that’s asked of her with great attitude and we really appreciate that. Katie is doing a good job,” Keaten said.

The other key to Lemons’ multi-tasking ability is the presence of a capable support staff at City Hall which makes it possible for her to get the job done, Keaten pointed out.

“We have other people helping her out. In the Parks and Recreation Department, for example, Katie has a really good staff. We have a new Senior Center manager and also Gabe (Goulart) as Rec supervisor,” he said.

Lemons agreed saying the city has “a lot of good people helping” to make the job manageable.

 “I know, sometimes it gets a little harried but I have good staff to help out and I’m thankful for that,” she said.

She credits her late “Papa (who) was very hard-working, and my mom, too,” for the work ethic that they inculcated in her. By the time she went to work for the city of Lathrop, the Stockton-native Lemons has had 20 years experience in human resources working for Foster Farms and Tri-Valley Growers and as a consultant for Stanislaus State and other businesses.

“I worked my way up the management ladder,” said Lemons who attended Modesto Junior College and then California State University at Stanislaus after graduating from Modesto High School.

Lemons though may be down to wearing just two hats on the job in a matter of weeks. Keaten said they have just finished recruiting applicants for the city clerk position and will probably be ready to hire someone in about a month or so.

As for the Parks and Recreation director job, Keaten said the position is still on hold and could become part of the city’s cost-cutting measures in the upcoming lean fiscal year which starts on July 1.

“We’re holding it pending the final review of our budget for this coming year,” he said.

Councilman Robert Oliver has been aware about the number of job hats Lemons has been wearing at City Hall.

He recalls telling her in jest, “Call me if you have a nervous breakdown.”

He added, “we’re working her so hard, but that’s one of the things Cary (Keaten) says is enabling us to function without laying off anybody else. As far as I can tell, she is part of the glue that’s holding this whole mess together. She’s very thorough, very careful and is very willing to let us overwork her. But so far, she seems to be holding everything together. She is a hard worker.”

As for not getting extra compensation for that, “that I didn’t know,” Oliver said.

Lemons, though, is not alone when it comes to holding multiple job designations. Ripon’s Lynette Van Laar has been doing that for many years. In addition to being city clerk, she is also the director of the Human Resources and Finance departments.