Monday, July 16, 2007

Human Services Transition

"One of the definite changes in my thinking was born of the hard reality I confronted when I discovered how much easier it was raising money for the opera and fashionable museums than for at-risk children. So I came to recognize that the task of overcoming poverty will not be achieved without the raw power of government appropriations."
- Arianna Huffington
As a property owner and frequent visitor to Cape Cod, I took understandably more than a passing interest in Mesa County's choice for it's new Director of Human Services. Full disclosure: I was a finalist for a job at DHS a couple of months back. If things would have happened differently, I would likely have been working for Len Stewart when he starts in August.

After reading the Sentinel's report in Saturday's edition, I quickly surfed over to the Cape Cod Times to read their story about Mr. Stewart's departure from their area. As you might expect, the coverage was somewhat different. I chuckle at the imaginary prospect of Gary Harmon working in Massachusetts.

Mr. Stewart has a public profile on LinkedIn, which has quite a bit of good information about him. An impressive education, including Philips Academy, Andover and Duke University.
Equally impressive credentials in public policy development, human services management, advocacy for specific public health crises, and even local news media.

Mr. Stewart seems to be all about establishing effective partnerships between government and that component of the non-profit sector that provides human services. His profile espouses goals I can agree with:
Interested primarily in ways government can better connect with and partner with the community (in a peer to peer, or "healthy communities" sort of way) to improve people's lives, and make sure they have what they need to be healthy, productive (however defined) community members.

Interested in ways to integrate and coordinate health and human services to link people quickly to what they need; and to link service providers to each other to truly coordinate services in a patient/client centered way.

Looking for ways to use innovative approaches to develop better services, for more people, at less overall system cost.

Vitally interested in improving government and nonprofit services through use of technology.

These are impressive goals, particularly the last one, and especially when dealing with a non-profit sector that sometimes appears less than coordinated and duplicates efforts at times, and elected officials that in the past have seemed bent on micro-managing the department, as evidenced by the demise of Mr. Stewart's predecessor, James Garrett.

To Mr. Stewart's credit, he seems to be focused on a collaborative future instead of a contentious past, even if the Cape Cod Times article alluded to a tenuous relationship with the commissioners there:
But Stewart said his job has been challenging because he's had to fight with the majority of county commissioners to get funds for the nonprofits that help poor and sick people. "He's been hanging tough for a long time," Paul O'Connor of the Barnstable County Health and Human Services Advisory Council said. "But it's been tough."
It looks like Mr. Stewart brings some quality experience and steadfastness to the forefront of his new job with Mesa County, and I hope he is up to the task. Cape Cod is a far cry from Grand Junction, and not just in distance. In any case, we both came out here for the job, and I hope that his experience will be as (if not more) positive as mine has.

Welcome to Mesa County, Mr. Stewart. A lot of needy people are counting on you. If you get homesick, I know of a small place that might be a good summer rental.


On a final (and possibly related) note, I was driving down North Avenue yesterday, and after passing Carville's this popped into my head:

You know you're from Grand Junction when the tallest fire truck in the county belongs to a used car lot.

Have a great week.

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