Odessa College’s Executive Director of Administration and Human Resources Ken Zartner puts everything into his job. Recently, his dedication was rewarded with employee of the year honors.
Now in his eighth year at the college, Zartner’s job encompasses everything from safety, such as dealing with roofing contractors, to recruiting employees.
“We have a tremendous amount of great employees here; we really do, so I’m very fortunate and humbled to have that opportunity. But there are so many good people here, it’s just absolutely crazy the amount of just dedicated individuals … we have in this office, not in this office but this entire campus from all over the country,” Zartner said.
Zartner said he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Huron University in Huron, S.D., a master’s in business administration from East Central University in Ada, Okla., and an occupational safety and environmental technology degree from Odessa College, because safety falls under his purview.
“I think you always need to continue to educate yourself to get better,” Zartner said.
Originally from Bell, a Los Angeles suburb, Zartner said he didn’t grow up thinking he was going to attend college. But when he graduated from high school, he had a chance to play college football in South Dakota.
He played offensive tackle and center, and in arena football, tight end, center and anywhere else he needed to be. The arena football teams were the Oklahoma Outlaws and Oklahoma Blitz.
“I bounced around to play a little arena football. Fortunately at that point I moved to Oklahoma and enrolled in graduate school at East Central Oklahoma State,” Zartner said.
He started his career in HR recruiting while in graduate school.
After graduation, he wound up in Amarillo, and later on, Odessa. He has a 9-year-old daughter.
“It’s been a blessing in disguise because of the people that I get an opportunity to work with every single day. I can’t ask to work with a better president than Dr. (Gregory) Williams. All of our administrative staff from top to bottom are so supportive. The people that we have here are absolutely phenomenal. I don’t feel like I come to work every day; I feel like I come home every day. That’s really what this place is to me,” Zartner said.
He added that football built a foundation for him. Zartner said he believes in respecting those around you and working as hard as you possibly can.
“I’m a firm believer in doing the little things right. I think that’s what helped me be successful in my role. I am the guy that wakes up at 4 a.m., goes to the goes to the gym every day and then goes to work to make sure that’s not going to impact anything that I do throughout the day. I am the guy that’s going to be the top performer at OC All-In … because I think it’s about doing every little thing right that you possibly can …,” Zartner added.
Zartner’s department is not large, but it’s versatile.
“… We’re a smaller HR team, so we’ve got to be your one-stop shop for absolutely everything. … So every joyous conversation happens here and every not so joyous conversation,” he said.
He also tries to find housing for people who are moving to Odessa. A couple of years ago, Zartner said every apartment complex was the college’s best friend offering discounts and gift baskets.
With the economy picking up, it’s a different situation.
“They don’t know us anymore. We can’t be great without great people and great people have to have a great place to live that’s affordable. It’s a real scenario that we’re battling, but I think we will overcome it,” Zartner said.
Asked about a recent letter to the editor in the Odessa American about turnover at Odessa College, Zartner said any employer has attrition.
“I think our record speaks for itself. Right now, we’re one of the best community colleges in the country, if not the best community college in the country …,” Zartner said.
The college has won state and national awards in the last few years.
“We create a culture here. You come up every day; you need to be productive; you need to work, but I think we also create an amazing culture for people, as well, not just through our compensation and benefit plans but the way we support our students, the way we support ourselves and the way we support our communities,” Zartner said.
Zartner said OC’s average attrition rate for faculty is 10 to 14 percent and the average attrition for the year is 18 percent.
OC has 342 full-time employees. When it’s fully staffed, the college has anywhere from 360 to 370 employees, depending on the time of year. There are more, for example, when summer camp is going on.
He has 10 people in human resources, including facilities contractors, so for example, if someone wants to host an event on campus, the college works with custodial contracts, food and pest control to make sure everything is lined up.
Zartner said if you broke down the attrition rate in the letter, 19 of 20 people were retirees. He added that the state benefits for instructors are very good and many of those who step away come back as adjunct professors.
“We create an amazing culture, an amazing environment for our people. I think we create an environment where we truly care. We’re compassionate. We understand the everyday problems. For example, I went to probably 15 apartment complexes just trying to find places for people to live. Normal HR people aren’t going to do that. … When you come here, you’re going to have wraparound support …,” Zartner said.
Human Resources Manager Lindsey Bryant works with Zartner. She has been at OC for six years.
“Ken is a very motivating supervisor. He trusts us to make the right decisions. He’s probably one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever worked with. He knows his stuff through and through and he’s very loyal to us on his team. He makes sure our needs are taken care of (and) makes sure we have what we need to be successful …,” Bryant said.
She added that the employee of the employee of the year recognition was well deserved.
“Ken definitely gives his all to OC. He loves OC. He’s a huge supporter of OC and he’ll do anything in his power to make sure that Odessa College as a whole is successful and he probably is definitely one of the hardest working people on campus,” Bryant said.
She added that it’s Zartner’s charisma that makes him stand out the most. Bryant said Zartner is always joking, but makes sure he takes care of business.
“I just think it’s his work ethic, how much he loves OC, the students and employees. You never have to question where his heart is,” Bryant said.