Martinez officials are working to contend with a number of staff departures over the past several months, and expect to fill those vacancies with a mix of staffers and contractors.

But the long-term plan, City Manager Eric Figueroa told the Martinez City Council last week, is for more in-house employees and fewer contractors over time.

In recent months, the city has lost Economic Development Director Christina Ratcliffe, IT Administrator Kathy DeVries, a city planner, two police sergeants, two emergency dispatchers, a mid-level maintenance worker and a records supervisor. Those departures added pain to a city that, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, had also instituted a pay freeze last spring and left eight positions unfilled.

Figueroa said that while the openings cause short-term pain, they also offer opportunities to re-evaluate how city departments, including the city manager’s office, operate. They also offer some opportunity for city employees looking to move up; in the police department’s case, he said, three officers have been promoted to sergeant after the two others left.

Deputy City Manager Michael Chandler has stepped in as the interim Community/Economic Development director, and “various seasoned consultants with project management experience and subject matter expertise” have been retained to help with key planning and development projects, like the city’s waterfront plan. Aside from that, Figueroa said, no city employee works in that department.

He hopes that will change, with the planned recruitment of one planning manager and two associate planners.

Council members said they favor in-house personnel over contractors for major projects.

“We’ve been deflecting to contractors for the past few years, and we really haven’t seen the kind of progress … we’d like to see on important projects,” Councilwoman Lara DeLaney said. She also would like a permanent city engineer, which the city hasn’t had since Tim Tucker retired in 2019.

The city, Figueroa said, is also looking to hire two new dispatchers. “Dispatchers are hard to find; it’s a difficult job, but our team has done a good job of finding folks so far,” he said.

Mayor Rob Schroder said the situation is basically a mixed bag.

“We always seem to have staffing issues,” he said. “But, it’s more an opportunity than a challenge.”