by Tashun Chism
Signs all around Lufkin point to a growing Hispanic population. That's why the city needs more bilingual Spanish-speaking employees.
"The City of Lufkin tries to hire employees to helps us mirror the population of the city of Lufkin. For example, the city of Lufkin has 18% Hispanic, 30% Black and 60% percent White. That's what we would like our city to look like. We would like it to look like the people we serve," said David Koonce, City of Lufkin Director of Human Resources.
Most bilingual city employees in Lufkin now work in the Municipal Court and the Water Collections area. But there is a shortage of bilingual police officers and fire fighters. City leaders believe, they know why.
"That's half the employment of the city of Lufkin, our civil service side. and our civil service side hires strictly by test. So we can't take into consideration whether a person can speak Spanish or if they're bilingual, or speak French or whatever other languages there are. We can't take that into consideration because it's strictly based solely on a test score," added Koonce.
Some other Texas cities pay employees extra money if they speak Spanish. The city of Lufkin used to have an extra pay incentive for bilingual workers, but doesn't anymore.
"They actually took a test and if they passed a test to show they were fluent or know conversational Spanish, we would give them an incentive in their pay. Now, of course as things happened and the city went through ups and downs with the tax brackets, we had to cut back on those incentives, so we don't offer that any more to our employees," Koonce said
Even though Lufkin does not offer extra incentives for bilingual city employees, it's hoped that does not discourage bilingual job applicants.
"As the Hispanic population grows, I hope the city moves more to mirror the population. We want to do that, we want to be the mirror of the population we serve. So if it grows, I hope that more of those people come to work here," said Koonce.