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Veterans Service Officer, will she stay or will she go?

Alicia Knadler
Indian Valley Editor

Plumas County Veterans Service Officer Sheryl Austin began preparing to leave her office about 40 days after her contract was terminated by action of the Board of Supervisors in September.

After that many days with no communication from the county about reclassifying her position, she said wasn't interested in remaining in the county employ.

But there was finally some action the day before Veterans Day, though she didn't know it until the following week when she returned from a four-day weekend.

The job announcement was posted on the county's new website, and she received an e-mail from County Administrative Officer Jack Ingstad asking her if she would reconsider her resignation.

Austin does not recall resigning, only stating she was not interested in remaining after that 40 days or so with no word about her future.

"I can't afford to sit around and wait to see if I still have a job," Austin said, and she is definitely not ready to retire.

So she's been looking at veterans service positions available elsewhere.

She enjoys helping veterans, even if all she can provide is an ear or a shoulder.

A veteran herself, Austin first began work under former veterans service officer Richard Turner, less than a year after he entered office.

She was credentialed for veterans service previously, so it was just a matter of renewal to become qualified for the part-time job under Turner.

Becoming a veterans service officer takes training and testing in a process overseen by the federal government, which includes proper protocol for the handling of military records.

For example, if there is no credentialed person to take her place, she will have to give custody of the locked cabinet of records to the service officer of American Legion Post 568.

Several veterans have heard of the situation and have taken possession of their records, in case they need them before the situation is resolved.

Ingstad said the county is asking former veterans service representatives who worked under Austin before budget cutbacks to fill in on an interim basis, until the position is filled. He said veterans would still receive services.

The veterans services office has been moved upstairs in the public health department, where there is a receptionist and a waiting area.

As of early last week, Austin was still unsure what was going to happen. She only knew the long-awaited communication had finally begun, with less than three weeks to go before her contract termination date.

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