HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Henrico County leaders announced a new program to bring retired employees back to the workforce.

According to the County, the initiative is targeting retired workers to fill key positions and to work part-time, temporary positions. The program aims to address the critical staffing needs in public safety and mental health.

At a news conference on Thursday morning, Henrico County leaders announced the rollout of the Henrico County Encore Program.

“Our retired employees served this community extremely well for many years. Now, we are looking at them and exclaiming ‘Encore!'” said Supervisor Frank Thorton, who represents the county’s Fairfield District.

Several government agency representatives also talked about the challenges their teams are facing.

“Excitement is hard to contain,” said Henrico Sheriff Alisa Gregory. “We have been doing what we do with the vacancies that we have. Oftentimes, it’s a struggle to be able to maintain that level of service that the folks, the citizens in Henrico County are accustomed to.”

Some agencies have reportedly been forced to pay overtime to full-time workers just to maintain services. Under the Encore Program, rehired people will be paid at the hourly rate they received at the time of their retirement.

The ideal candidate for the Encore Program must have been retired from Henrico’s general government for at least six months and successfully completed their probationary period during their full-time employment.

Kevin Pond, director of Henrico’s emergency communications center, says they handled more than 12,500 calls in January. That’s the highest number of calls they’ve handled within the past six months.

“We’ve been able to lean on our public safety partners, like the police and fire division, to bolster our staffing numbers,” he said. “That way the community and the responders never really feel the impact of any staffing woes.

Pond thinks bringing back retired workers will make a huge difference.

“They understand our core values and our mission, and that’s something that would historically take a little longer to teach,” he said. “So, they already understand us. They can hit the ground running, some of these individuals from day one, depending on how long they’ve been separated.”

Henrico agencies are looking to fill dozens of open positions in these five categories:

  • School Resource Officer
  • 911 dispatcher
  • Mental Health and Development Services clinicians
  • Firefighter-C.A.R.E Team, community risk reduction/public education, fire marshal’s office, training, professional standards, and medical transport
  • Sheriff’s deputy

Many other localities in Virginia are still facing a persistent staffing shortage, too.

In Hanover County, leaders are trying to fill 31 vacant positions in the Sheriff’s Office, 12 in the Fire Department and 10 at the Emergency Communications Center. The County added that they currently have seven open Clinician and Case Manager positions—which equates to about a 15% vacancy rate.  

Hanover County leaders said they’re partnering with local schools to build relationships and share opportunities. They’re also looking at the possibility of organizing an Open House with Emergency Communications, so applicants can see jobs and have a potential interview on the spot.