Portage County lost its budget director to a nonprofit with better pay, benefits

Photo of Joe Harris, a young white man with short brown hair, sitting at his desk with his hands folded in front of his computer keyboard.
Joe Harris began his new role as finance director for the Portage County government on June 1. Lyndsey Brennan/The Portager

Portage County has a new finance director: County commissioners on Dec. 1 approved Jaclyn Petty to replace Joe Harris, who recently resigned to take a new job.

Harris, who was hired in May 2021 to replace longtime Finance Director Todd Bragg, resigned effective Nov. 2 to take a position with Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging.

County Administrator Michelle Crombie said Harris was not unhappy in his work but “sought career advancement with higher salary and better benefits,” she said.

Remote work is not an option for most county employees, Crombie said.

Swaying Harris’ decision was the nonprofit’s six weeks of PTO right from the start, she added. Portage County allows employees to accrue 4.6 hours of paid sick leave per 80 hours of service, with a maximum of 120 hours per year. Full-time employees with seven or fewer years of service, as Harris had, are eligible for two weeks of paid vacation per year.

Harris was also attracted to the nonprofit’s flexible schedule that allowed remote work, a significant wage increase (approximately $60,000 more annually than he was making at the county), a staff of 10 to assist with daily duties, no data input responsibilities, and 14 paid holidays (Portage County offers 12).

When Harris left, his hourly rate was $43.22, having earned a single-step raise from $41.44 an hour in May 2022. His hourly rate when he was hired in May 2021 was $38.46.

Harris’ annual evaluation on June 1, 2022, contained no red flags. With input from the county commissioners, Crombie, his evaluator, noted his leadership skills, positive attitude and ability to adapt quickly to new action plans. 

The Portager requested Petty’s salary, application and resume but has not received the materials by press time. 

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.