Employees want a proactive boss

Employees want a proactive boss
September 24
00:00 2014

Employees of the Forsyth County Department of Social Services took full advantage of the opportunity to provide input into the search for the agency’s next executive director, calling for a leader who will be open to suggestions and criticism and will knock down barriers within DSS and build bridges outside of it.

The Forsyth County DSS Board, whose five members are expected to hire the new ED by the end of the year, held four forums this month to get feedback from agency employees and the general public. Board Chair Evelyn Terry, a Democrat who represents the county’s 71st District in the General Assembly, said the two staff-only forums on Sept. 11 were well-attended. Staffers also made up the bulk of attendees at the two public forums on Sept. 18, which, combined, drew about 25 people. The board had also solicited input via an online survey that officials say had been filled out by about 200 people before it was taken down last week.

“We have had very good feedback,” said Terry.



Reginald D. McCaskill of the Northwest Piedmont Council of Government was seemingly the only non-DSS employee at last Thursday’s evening forum. He said the next executive director should push employees to be more active in the community. Earlier in the day, he had attended a training session for social services providers and said DSS was conspicuous in its absence.

“Connect to the community … to the people they serve!” he urged.

Veterans of the agency liked McCaskill’s suggestion. One longtime employee said the agency was visible in the community 15 to 20 years ago, but that directive had somehow changed in the last 10 years.

Another employee suggested that the next executive director needs to launch a one-person public relations campaign to disabuse the public of long-held notions of those who receive DSS services. She said the myth that able-bodied DSS clients stay home all day watching television is long overdue for correction.

“Our customers have jobs; they work,” she said.
Others suggested the next leader should implement uniform policies and procedures across the agency’s three divisions – Income Support, Family and Children and Adult Services – and concentrate on employee retention.

More than one person suggested that a person should be hired who is sensitive to cultural diversity. Though most of the agency’s 450 employees are black and a large percentage of its clients are minorities, people of color had largely been missing at the leadership table. That has changed in recent years, but employees said there is still much room for improvement.

“That’s a hot button issue,” Terry said. “We are trying to be colorblind and choose the very best, but I don’t think it’s an issue we can leave off the table with this selection.”



Fifty-two people applied for the job by the Sept. 14 deadline, according to Forsyth County Human Resources Director Shontell Robinson, who will winnow the pool by applying the requirements listed in the job description. The board will be charged with dwindling down the applicants that meet the basic requirements. Terry said no concrete hire or start date has been set for the new director.
Nigel Alston, a former DSS Board member, has been pegged as the interim director. The agency has been without a permanent leader since mid-August, when former ED Joe Raymond departed for a similar job in Guilford County.

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T. Kevin Walker

T. Kevin Walker

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