46 Lee County Sheriff's Office employees to retire as part of cost savings measure

— The first face people saw for years when they entered the Lee County Sheriff’s Office public information office was Janie Boyd.

Now the woman who processed hundreds if not thousands of public records requests from attorneys, private detectives, the media and civilians is starting a new chapter of her life, along with 45 other Sheriff’s Office employees who have already or will retire by the end of June.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office offered the buyout to certain employees as a way to help the organization reduce costs.

Boyd’s last day was April 29. She said she has been planning her retirement for about two years and was at the age for early retirement anyhow.

“The timing was right,” Boyd said. “Everything fell into place.

“I’m just going back to a beautiful place and take care of my dad,” she said Wednesday of her future plans.

Of those who have accepted the buyout, 30 are certified law enforcement officers with a combined total of 568 years experience, according to data provided by the Sheriff’s Office.

However the Sheriff’s Office has people who have the knowledge to take over those positions.

“We continually try to train and prepare our members throughout the agency to serve in areas of need,” said Sgt. Stephanie Eller.

The move will ax $2.85 million in wages per year from the Sheriff’s Office budget.

Those who opted for the buyout received two weeks pay based on their annual salary for each year of service. For instance, someone who was employed five years received 10 weeks’ pay, while someone who served 26 years or more could only get 52 weeks’ pay.

Some of the critical positions have been filled by employees already on the payroll.

The highest paid, Capt. Bradley Gossman, made $88,590.32, according to a document prepared and released by the Sheriff’s Office. Gossman served for 27 years and will retire June 23.

The least paid were two civilian employees, Alison Gregory, who served for 10 years as a communications operator, and Jerry Weatherwax, a district clerk who was employed for 12 years. They each made $35,960.60. Gregory will retire June 30, Weatherwax’s last day was March 18.

Many of those who accepted the buyout included some high-ranking staff members whose wages were in the $70,000 to the low- to mid-$80,000 range.

Two of the agency’s automotive mechanics are retiring with a combined total of 67 years service. Henry Fichter was employed for 29 years, earned $57,988.20 and will retire June 30. John Dowdy worked on the agency’s vehicles for 38 years, the longest of any of those retiring, and earned $52,268.06. He will retire June 23.

Eller said each member of the agency with a minimum of five years on the job and in the top 35 percent of their pay range qualified for the buyout.

Sheriff Mike Scott was not available for comment Wednesday.

The agency would not arrange for those still on the payroll to speak to the media and several who have retired either could not be located for comment or did not return messages seeking comment.

“We are currently in the process of formulating our budget for fiscal year 11-12 and are working with the County to reduce our cost,” she said. “We want to reassure the citizens and visitors of Lee County that safety is our number one priority while still attempting to reduce future cost.”

Email Valli Finney at vallimfinney@yahoo.com

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