She manages the city’s greatest asset

A city is an organization with many parts, none more than its Human Resources Department. Keizer’s two-person HR Department, led by Machell DePina,  is busy every day not only keeping records up to date for more than 100 employees but also their health insurance and pension needs.

DePina took Keizer’s Human Resource director position after years serving similar positions with the state of Oregon in both the Employment and Child Services departments.

In her first managerial role in Human Resources she got a taste of work with employees and figure out how to use their skills and ideas.

“What’s a better way to do things?” she said. “Looking at how you bring fairness to processes where you have all these levels of people.”

“I really enjoyed that. And so that kind of wet the whistle, so to say.  And I started studying that and going to classes,” DePina added.

With Child Service she worked with families and local offices for foster care, trying to figure out ways to keep kids with their families in their communities.

“They nicknamed me Barrier Buster because I had to figure out ways to get past all of the rules and policies and allow them to use funds in creative ways to keep kids where they need to be,” said DePina of her time there.

DePina became Keizer’s Human Resource Director in 2008 and it has been a non-stop job since.

“There is not enough time in the day to train on everything that we’re supposed to be an expert on. And not only get the baseline information, but the changes that happen every week, month, and year,” she said.  “I could spend all of my time doing nothing but training myself.” 

The COVID pandemic forced much of the information the department needs online, which reduces the number of in-person training sessions she and Kristin Meyers, the department’s Human Resources generalist, need to attend.

DePina and Meyers are involved in the hiring process of most city employees. When a vacancy occurs, a job announcement is posted, listing the requirements for the job. They will review applicants with two or three people from the department hiring. “We try to be as flexible as possible” DePina said. “Because we want the opportunity to meet folks that are even potential.”

The city of Keizer takes good care of its people. Financed solely by grants, employees can take advantage of its wellness center, part of the city’s health and wellness program. The wellness center is a meditative room where employees can relieve stress; it includes a massage chair, low lighting and a water feature for a soothing soundtrack. DePina was quick to point out that no tax payer money was used for the room.

The times have changed. When she started in her position DePena remembers receiving 150 to 200 applicants per job opening, now she sees perhaps up to 20.

For certain city positions the Human Resources Department works closely with an executive recruiting firm. Department heads are hired by the city manager, while the city’s executive officer and the city’s legal counsel work for the city council, which oversees hiring for those two positions, including using a recruitment firm, if they choose to.

Human Resource departments are involved with disciplinary actions, as well. Those actions follow the standard procedure: oral warning, written warning and further steps. As DePina points out, disciplinary actions at the city are rare.

DePina and Meyers have many tasks to do each day. In a perfect situation the department would have a few more employees. The biggest challenge to her job is ‘not having three more of me,” said DePina. “There’s so much more that we would love to do and we just don’t have the capacity.”

DePina will oversee replacements for upcoming city department heads headed for retirement over the next two years, including City Recorder Tracy Davis, Police Chief John Teague and City Attorney Shannon Johnson. DePina plans to work until she retires in December 2024.