Sun-Star reporter joins Merced County staff

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comMay 8, 2013 

— A new face will soon be the voice for Merced County, officials announced this week.

Sun-Star reporter Mike North, 25, will join the county as a management analyst, filling a communications role for the county, said Jim Brown, county executive officer.

The position pays between $49,836 to $60,632 per year, according its job description.

The job originally was posted as a public affairs officer, with an annual salary range of $85,446 to $103,833.

The higher pay range for the public affairs position became an issue in the most recent supervisorial race when concerns were raised about the need for the job amid difficult financial conditions.

Brown said the job's title and pay changed because of budgetary issues and because he couldn't find the right candidate.

"Originally, we went out and did a recruitment, and I was not able to find the skill set and experience we were looking for to pay that salary," Brown said, noting that staff interviewed a half-dozen finalists from a pool of 63 applicants.

"For that salary, it had to be the right person," Brown said, with experience in communications, legislative and government affairs.

Although the position changed, Brown said, he still wanted to attract someone with a strong communications background, which North has demonstrated.

"Mike comes to us with a skill set of being able to write, communicate well, break down complex issues and the ability to be fair," he said.

North joins the ranks as one of five management analysts in the county executive's office, though a few currently are helping other departments. Brown said he'll also have the opportunity work on special projects.

A graduate of Chico State, North began his career at the Sun-Star as an intern in 2010 before progressing to a reporter role, covering Livingston, Atwater and Merced County news. He also co-hosted a weekly radio show, "Off The 99."

North begins his new position Monday, and said he's already planned a few projects to help the county better communicate with the public.

"Social media is one of the simplest things we can do to get the word out immediately," North said. "I think it's a service to people to give them another outlet and educate them on what we're doing at the county."

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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