Darren LeBrun hit the ground running when he took over as Scioto County Engineer in January. LeBrun was able to accomplish something that had not been done in three years. He signed a contract agreement with American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1354.
Why three years?
“We just couldn’t come to an agreement with the prior engineer (Craig Opperman),” Jerry Huffstetler, president of AFSCME Local 1354, said. “We figured there were so many serious issues on our end, so we went through the proper steps and we just had to wait it out and finally we had a chance to get an agreement.”
How do you feel about the contract?
“I feel good (about it),” Huffstetler said. “Darren gave us a lot of our language back that I feel is so important to the safety and health of the men.”
LeBrun was also pleased with the agreement.
“We’ve got an agreement that’s been passed by the (Scioto County) Commissioners,” LeBrun said. “It’s an agreement between the local union and the Engineers Department.”
LeBrun said the key to the contract was directly negotiating with the union.
“It was me and Eddy (Leadingham) and Carla (Emmons). We sat face to face with just the local guys,” LeBrun said. “We presented them with the facts. I feel like I’ve only been here a couple of months but I respect these guys. I’ve known several of them for a while and I felt like that was returned. So I felt like we had a mutual respect in the negotiations. I felt like that was important.”
LeBrun was bargaining within the confines of a tight county budget and that knowledge had to play into the negotiations.
“So you want one that is fair to both the taxpayer and the employees,” LeBrun said. “I think this agreement accomplishes that goal.”
LeBrun said the Engineers Office and union’s pay rate was neither the highest nor the lowest in the state
“So we’re kind of in the middle of the pack,” LeBrun said. “We’ve got more bridges here that we are responsible for than some of the other counties so some of our costs are higher. I think it’s a good place to be when we’re in the middle of the pack.”
LeBrun said one of the things that made negotiations more effective is his respect for what the employees do.
“It was really satisfying to come to an agreement,” Huffstetler said. “It was really easy. Darren, the new boss, made the negotiations less painful for us. I’m glad to get started and go from there.”
Huffstetler said the contract is for three years and LeBrun has a one year extension, making it a four-year term. LeBrun said negotiations usually start 3-4 months before the contract expiration.
“If we think we’re going to have some issues, we would maybe start a little bit earlier than that to try to hammer those out,” LeBrun said. “Jerry (Huffstetler) is going to be in contact with John (Johnson, Athens District President of AFSCME Ohio Council 8) on his end to make sure that anything they’re concerned about gets taken care of, and then our representatives will make sure that anything that we’re concerned about is taken care of as well.”
Johnson called it a very fair contract.
“I’m glad to work with the new engineer,” Johnson said. “Compared to contracts, I think it was a good contract, and I’m very happy to see that we got it completed.”
It was not the first such negotiations for LeBrun who also negotiated when he was Scioto County Sanitary Engineer. LeBrun defeated incumbent engineer Opperman in the November 2016 election.
“Scioto County should be proud that we have the workforce that we have,” LeBrun said.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.