City's new HR director gets 'in the swing of things'

Charlotte Sellin has been very busy in Oak Harbor since the beginning of last month.

On Sept. 1, Sellin took over as the human resources manager for the city of Oak Harbor, a position that had been vacant for 18 months — since Mayor Patty Cohen fired the former HR manager.

“I’m still getting into the swing of things,” Sellin said during an interview at her office on Tuesday. She is in the process of meeting individually with all city department heads, and working on her top priority project — selecting a new chief of police.

Sellin is also the key point of contact for the city’s 135 employees in regard to all different areas of human resources, including classification, compensation, recruitment and hiring. She also oversees all employee issues once a person has been hired, such as benefits and workers’ compensation.

“A lot of these different responsibilities had been farmed out in the absence of an HR person,” Sellin said, “and so it’s been a matter of kind of taking an inventory to see where things are and who’s doing what.”

Human resources professionals play a very interesting role, Sellin said. They are often the liaison between employees and management.

“We are to play a dual role as an advocate for employees and at the same time we ... respond to management,” Sellin said. “We take directions from management. To have that balance and to bring groups together is sort of what human resources people do.

Formerly, Sellin was the human resources analyst for the city of Bellingham for six years. Most recently, she was in human resources for Kitsap Transit.

“I actually fall back on my experience with the city of Bellingham,” Sellin said. “It (provided me) with the opportunity to learn in depth about the skills that are required to do different jobs.”

Sellin said that on her very first day on the job she jumped right into the human resources role of assisting in the search for a new police chief. Upon starting with the city, Sellin was handed a big file of applicants.

“My primary assignment right now is developing an assessment center for the chief of police,” Sellin said.

Sellin said that the process requires a complete job analysis of the position to identify what are the “performance dimensions,” or job responsibilities. Then Sellin will need to determine what tests will need to be given to position candidates in order to measure their skill levels in different aspects of the job. The police chief will need to be a capable manager, said Selling, as well as highly skilled in the technical skills of law enforcement.

You can reach News-Times reporter Christine Smith at or call 675-6611

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