The Transylvania Times -

Competitive Salaries


March 5, 2018

On today’s front page, readers will find a story in which Transylvania County Sheriff David Mahoney reported to the county commissioners the difficulty of recruiting and retaining law enforcement officers.

Scrutiny of law enforcement officers’ responses to certain situations, such as the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., or extensive police corruption in places like Baltimore, Md., have cast a blemish on some officers and departments. Unfortunately, that perspective is often transferred to law enforcement as a whole.

One of the primary reasons, however, Mahoney is having difficulty recruiting and retaining officers is the salary and benefits package they receive. It simply does not measure up to that either offered by neighboring counties or private industry. As a result, the Sheriff’s Office has lost eight officers to other law enforcement agencies and four to other industries. In addition, Brevard College’s law enforcement training class has graduated 15 students; only one has accepted a position in this county.

The situation may only get worse in the coming year since eight members of the department will be eligible for retirement.

The Sheriff’s Office is not the only department that is losing qualified personnel to other counties or industries. The school system and other county departments have seen employees move to nearby counties in which the pay and benefits are better. The lower compensation not only means that the county is losing experienced personnel, but that it also has a smaller pool of individuals from which to recruit. If rookie law enforcment officers or teachers can make more money in nearby counties, that is where they will interview.

Another detrimental aspect is that this county has become a training ground. The county spends money training new law enforcement officers and teachers to become skilled veterans. But when they become established and there is no room for financial advancement here, they move elsewhere. This is a “lose-lose” situation for the county. Transylvania County pays the additional expense of training and mentoring these officers and teachers, but then loses their skill and experience when they move to another county. (This is somewhat similar to the Air Force training pilots who then leave the military to fly commercially. Fortunately, the Air Force and the commercial airlines apparently reached a compromise years ago to help mitigate the situation for the Air Force.)

The comparatively low salaries and benefits packages are not the only deterrents to keeping county employees here. The cost of housing in Transylvania is higher than Henderson County in general and parts of Buncombe County. It’s easier to justify to living in a community in which the pay is lower if everything else is comparable. But when the pay is lower and the cost of housing is higher, other counties become much more attractive, particularly if the quality of life is comparable.

The adage that “you get what you pay for” applies not only to products but to personnel. Due to the beauty of this area and the high quality of life, we have been able to actually get more than what we pay for from many employees, both in the public service and the private sector. But if the present trend continues, we will begin to see more qualified and experienced people choosing to live and work somewhere else.


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