By ABBY SOUZA
Olga Andrews was born and raised in Panama. She met her husband, Kenneth, then in the Army, and moved to the United States 21 years ago. She has raised two children, now 20 and 15, who both speak fluent Spanish.
"I believe it's very important to teach your children about their heritage," Andrews said.
For the past four years, Olga has worked for Tuolumne County as a senior account clerk in the treasurer-tax collector department.
But because she is one of few people fluent in Spanish at the county administration center on Green Street, she also ends up helping people get marriage licenses, order copies of birth certificates and fulfill a multitude of other needs that don't come under her job description.
"I don't mind doing it," Andrews said. "I'm willing to help if I can, I'd just like to be recognized for what I do."
Now, because of recommendation given to the board by county Human Resources/Risk Manager Eric Larson, employees like Andrews will have a 5 percent increase in their pay.
The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted in the pay increase for bilingual county employees who qualify to be translators.
But not without debate.
District 5 Supervisor Richard Pland was concerned this type of increase could take on a life of its own.
"There could be a lot of skills that can fit into the category," Pland said
Pland gave the example of a person who types 70 words per minute getting paid more for their ability.
"It's the United States of America," District 1 Supervisor Larry Rotelli said. "Everyone should speak English, in my opinion."
District 2 Supervisor Paolo Maffei, who is on record as opposing bilingual education, said he doesn't have a problem with the pay policy, as long as it is used appropriately not given to every employee who has a special skill.
"I don't think you should put this in your newspaper, but anyone who comes into this country not speaking English is a permanent second-class citizen," Maffei said.