Guilford County government has just filled one of its toughest jobs, human resources director.
The new director, Joanette Freeman, will oversee employee benefits and personnel records, consult on salary ranges, and do the many other things that HR directors do – like keep employees from strangling each other.
Despite the challenging nature of the job, Freeman has accepted it with enthusiasm. The position has been vacant for over a year after the resignation of former Human Resources Director Karen Fishel caught many by surprise in July of 2019.
Freeman has previously served as the executive director of benefits and compensation at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte. She studied at North Carolina A&T State University and at Pfeiffer University, and she has obtained the status of Certified Professional in Human Resources.
Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing presented the new director to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners at a board work session on Thursday, Oct. 15. Freeman, who had only begun working for the county three days earlier, wasn’t bashful, and, when the meeting turned to discussion of the employee benefits and communicating with the county’s employees, she jumped into the conversation and provided her views. Many county department heads are much shyer when they first take a job with the county. Some, in fact, only speak when called on for comment, and, even then, say as little as they possibly can.
At the meeting, the commissioners were discussing the increasing health care costs facing Guilford County and exploring a need to make adjustments in the health insurance plans for the county’s 2,300 or so employees.
Freeman told the board that it’s important to communicate with employees in the right manner regarding any changes.
“When we put the messages out, we show them that’s what’s happening nationally; we show them what’s even happening in the region – and then we show them what’s happening in Guilford County, so that they can see: Well, maybe it’s not so bad, because benefits costs are constantly increasing. That’s a national trend everywhere.”
Freeman said Guilford County’s employee healthcare plan is very attractive.
“They still have a really rich health care plan – and I think that that’s the message we have to deliver.”