Supervisors share their experiences in hiring Veteran Fellows 

What began as King County’s Heroes Employment Reintegration Opportunity (HERO) Program four years ago has developed into the Vets 4 HIRE (Heroes in Reintegration Experiences) program, a paid fellowship/internship for qualified veterans funded in part by the Veterans and Human Services Levy.

While the success of any program of this type depends on the quality of the candidates, the success of Vets 4 HIRE also relies on those County’s supervisors who engage with this unique pool of talent. With the approval of funding through this year, and voting on a Levy renewal this fall, there are opportunities for King County supervisors to bring veteran talent onto their teams – adding value to not only their teams, but to the County and the residents we serve.

“Our veteran was great!” said Joseph Hughes, Parks District Maintenance Coordinator. “He did not know exactly what he wanted to do when he retired from the Navy, but – working here at Bear Creek – he decided to return to school and is taking courses to be a Park Manager.”

“We created the Vets 4 HIRE Program to support veterans in making a successful transition from military to civilian employment, and to provide a pipeline of skilled veteran talent for positions within King County,” said Susan Navetski, Vets 4 HIRE Program Manager. “We believe their talent, experiences and perspectives can support us in achieving our best-run government goal.”

So far, 37 veterans have participated in the program, and 28 King County supervisors have enjoyed the benefits.

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Pictured from left: Veteran fellows Casimier Schwandt and Darron Lewis and IT Oversight, Compliance, and Governance Manager Zlata Kauzlaric.

Zlata Kauzlaric is one such supervisor. Zlata manages IT Governance for King County CIO Bill Kehoe, and she’s hired three veteran fellows.

“Here at KCIT, we are excited to participate in the program.  This is one of the ways to support our veterans, who made a decision to serve this country and protect our way of living. Their service is remarkable,” said Zlata. “Now they’re out here in a ‘different world,’ and this is a great opportunity for us to help them transition, to help them build a network so they can identify opportunities. I am really proud of our County for this program, and I want to support it.”

Two of Zlata’s three fellows are still with the County. Navy veteran Darron Lewis is now engaging our community as a career service Administrative Specialist with Department of Public Health, and Air Force veteran Casimier Schwandt joined KCIT’s Business Analysis Services team in a project role.

“Cas joined my team with a desire to make a difference and to build his professional acumen in challenging and difficult position – Journey Business Analyst,” said Charlie Bozonier, Analysis and Training Services Owner with the KCIT Enterprise Business Solutions Division.  “He has served on about 20 different projects in his first year.  All the work was challenging, but Cas was consistently dedicated and demonstrated the highest degree of commitment to the role.  His colleagues and customers love working with him, and we are lucky to have him on the team.”

Susan Navetski, Vets 4 HIRE Program Manager

“They bring a different perspective,” said Zlata. “They bring discipline, reliability, organizational skills, and a sense of service. They are happy for the opportunity, they are committed to learn, and they bring an attitude that ‘nothing is impossible.’”

Supervisors can work with their department HR staff to identify opportunities for veterans to contribute to their teams, review and select from existing veteran candidate pools, or post those opportunities on the County’s career site.

The program currently allows veterans to continue to serve for an initial six month paid learning experience, with an extension of up to 2,080 hours. For those veterans who are residents of King County, half of the first six month’s salary – up to $6,250 – is covered by the Levy.

Stay tuned for more Vets 4 HIRE supervisor perspectives and announcements!

For more information about the program visit www.kingcounty.gov/Vets4HIRE.