What attracts workers to city employment?
The Journal recently visited with fresh hires during a city new employee orientation session. Here’s what a few had to say:
“I came because of the benefits,” said Daniel Vargas, who joined the city last month as a mechanical and plumbing inspector in the Planning Department. “I ain’t getting any younger.”
Now 48, Vargas said he had worked as a plumber for the past 24 years but had only mediocre health insurance coverage and no 401K, let alone a pension like the city offers. He said he did not consider such things when he was starting his career, but it’s become more important now.
He said he’s “trading my tools for a laptop” by taking a job as an inspector, something he said also made the city job attractive.
“It should help me last another 20 years of working for retirement,” he said.
The job itself was the lure for DeAnn Salazar. A longtime paralegal, she decided to change careers during the pandemic and went back to school to study analytics. She was particularly interested in crime and last year took a temporary job at the Albuquerque Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center. She hoped it would lead to full-time employment in a particular part of city government where, she said, turnover is actually pretty low. It did.
While her goal was finding full-time work as a crime analyst, she said the city benefits package was also part of her job search calculation.
“There definitely are a lot of perks. No doubt,” Salazar said, noting that she knows city retirees who were able to retire with a pension.
Alex Melendez recently started as a heavy equipment operator at the city landfill. He previously worked in the mining industry — most recently outside of Grants, N.M. — and took a dramatic pay cut to start at the city, slashing his hourly wage by more than 50%. But he said he will now pay less for health insurance and that the landfill job is just better for his quality of life. Working at the coal mine required alternating between weeks of day shifts and weeks of night shifts and required a long commute. He said driving to and from the mine left him little time for family, like his grandchildren. “I’m 50 years old. I just left a job I’ve been doing forever to start over,” Melendez said.