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Labor Day

September 2, 2013

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It is the annual national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Today, as we celebrate Labor Day, I have to pause to recognize and show appreciation for the 2,289 hard working employees that contribute to the strength of this great City. From public safety, public works, public services and administration, these employees work hard every day to make this City the best it can be. When we turn on our faucet and clean water comes out, or put out our garbage and come home and it has been pick up, we may not think about the fact that this is because of the men and woman who work for the City of Columbia.

On a recent trip to DC, I stayed at a Marriott and picked up “The Spirit to Serve Marriott’s Way” by J. W. Marriott. As part of the introduction it discusses Mr. Marriott’s philosophy, “Take care of your employees and they will take care of the guests”. Although this is not the official mission of the City, it is certainly a longstanding belief of mine. I understand that if we at the City create an environment that encourages, supports and promotes our employees, they will be motivated, conscientious employees that will take care of our citizens.

To that end, here are just some of the ways we have exemplified this philosophy:

  • Public Safety Recruitment and Retention – Council approved a public safety recruitment and retention plan which sets out a definable plan to retain and recruit the best and brightest for our fire, police and 911 services. This plan includes compensation, training and ensuring that they have the best tools and latest technologies to do their job, while also being able to assist with succession planning. This plan was originally approved in 2008, but was not fully implemented in the midst of the economic down turn. I am pleased that this year, council reaffirmed this plan and made provisions for implementation in this year’s budget.
  • City of Columbia Home Loan Program – The City of Columbia provides a home loan program for any employee purchasing a home in the city limits. This is a way to further encourage our employees to live in the community in which they serve.
  • Wellness Program – The city-wide wellness program is open to any City of Columbia employee who wants to participate. Participating employees go through a 12-week fitness and nutrition program. Since this program’s inception, employees have experienced many benefits and the success stories include significant weight loss, healthier lifestyles, a decrease in chronic illnesses and the elimination of some medications. Healthy employees increase the efficiency of an organization and is a more productive employee.
  • Employee Clinic – In 2012, the City opened an employee wellness clinic which is open to all employees. Statistics show that many of the health related illnesses that cause health care costs to increase, if diagnosed early, would save millions of dollars by providing preventive treatment. In recognition of this, we have opened this employee clinic so that employees can see a doctor on a regular basis and hopefully catch illnesses early. This clinic is free to all employees and in its first year of operation has already saved the city and its taxpayers’ money.
  • Community Service/Volunteer policy – This policy allows employees to utilize special leave time to volunteer with projects and organizations that contribute to the health and vitality of our community. Prior to the implementation of this policy, if staff wanted to do any community service hours, they had to take annual leave. This program helps our employees give back to the community and share their talents and skills with those who need it most.
  • Training and Advanced Education – The City of Columbia has a variety of programs that assist our employees in getting training in their field and advanced educational opportunities. We currently work with Richland School District One to help provide GED training for those who currently do not have a high school diploma. Additionally, the city provides for tuition reimbursement for staff that seek to advance their education. We also have partnered with the Fast Forward Technology Center to ensure that employees have access to training on computer skills and other basic technology needed to provide citizens with effective services. It is our mission to build and maintain a qualified team of knowledgeable, well-trained employees. This is in recognition of education being the key to advancement and we want all employees to have unlimited opportunities.

For the City of Columbia to continue to grow and prosper we must value our greatest assets – the employees who work daily to maintain our operations and provide critical services to our citizens. It is in this spirit that I am proud to salute and thank our City employees, as well as all workers in the businesses and agencies throughout our community.

Have a Safe and Happy Labor Day

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