WAXAHACHIE — For Yasmin Barnes, the Human Resources Department at the City of Waxahachie is more than just paperwork, policies and procedures. It is about catering to and respecting the people who serve residents each day.
Barnes is also the city’s new director of human resources and civil services, taking over for Gayle Sims who retired late last year. During her career, Barnes has worked for several originations including the American Red Cross, YWCA and, most recently, with the City of Dallas, as its assistant director of human resources. She has been on the job in Waxahachie since Jan. 9.
Barnes said she was drawn to working in municipal government because of the positive impact a person can make in someone’s life.
“Everything that you do you can see it in the community. I know that I made an impact in the community. Some of the jobs that I did in the City of Dallas and some of the things that I created or worked on or worked with other people on are still in effect now,” Barnes said. “Coming here was a great transition. I absolutely love it. People who work in city government really love what they do. So you meet a lot of passionate people who like the work. Coming (to work) here I felt like I was coming home. This town reminds me of my hometown, Longview, where everybody knows each other, and they drive by, and they wave. The people here genuinely love working here.”
Barnes said she knows that she has some big shoes to fill but she hopes to continue the level of professionalism and customer service Sims maintained. She also hopes to expand the human resources department so that it can better serve the city.
“I just want to move the HR department, and anything related to personnel, into the future and see what new and exciting things that we can implement here so we can be more efficient and be a better resource for the employees,” Barnes said. “The City of Waxahachie was already this prime place to be and we have to keep up. I plan on being here for a long time. So I want some systems in place that will help us grow as the city grows.”
Barnes said the experience she gained working in several different departments for the City of Dallas helped provide valuable knowledge into the interworking of local government and how it can serve its residents.
“The city manager of Dallas told me that I needed to learn every single aspect of city government and HR is one of the most important things that you need to learn. You need to learn how to manage an HR department, the policies, the rules, and the regulations. That is going to help you in any job that you are going to do in the city,” Barnes said. “She knew that I was interested in that. So she gave me the opportunity to do a different job around the city. I worked in our strategic customer service department, worked in the streets department, worked in the operations department, worked in the intergovernmental services department and moved to HR after that. There they kind of throw you in, kind of sink or swim and she (the city manager) was like, ‘I know you can swim. So go do it.’ I did it, and I loved it.”
Barnes said the part of her job she enjoys the most is the interaction she has with the employees because they are ones who make things happen.
“We have a huge role to play in whether people want to work here or not,” Barnes said. “We want to make HR a place where we can go and get resources. We are here to help.”
Barnes said by coming to Waxahachie, she is able to be more hands on in several different projects unlike a larger city where somebody else would handle projects.
One of the projects that she is currently overseeing is the compensation study that was approved by the city council at its Feb. 20 meeting. The goal is to have the study completed by the next budget cycle or to phase it in over time, said Barnes, who is aiming for a completion date around May 31.
“Employee pay is always at the top of the list. You would think that employee pay would be number one, but it's not. Employees want to feel valued. Employees want to work somewhere that feel they make a difference. It is a mix of all these things and compensation does play a huge part,” Barnes said. “The city wants to make sure they compensate their employees fairly. We are growing. We want to attract the best people to come here and work. We want to pay them comparably to other cities around us. Also, keep the existing employees because we have some talented people here. They are dedicated, love it, and you can’t ask for a better group of folks. We want to make sure that we compensate them and reward them for that.”
City Manager Paul Stevens said he is proud to have Barnes as a staff member at city hall.
“One of the things that kind of stood out is her varied work history. No matter what she did at the City of Dallas, she did a great job. She advanced quickly,” Stevens said. “Of course, being in HR in Dallas, that is a huge job. So to get somebody of that caliber we were ecstatic. She has fit into the culture really and is already working with so many new ideas with regard to employee morale. It is exciting to have her here.”
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