Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone
When Robert Norman was named the director of the Hardin County Jobs and Family Services three years ago, he was determined to turn the agency around financially.
Through attrition, he has been able to reach his goal, but in order for the process to continue one more job needed to be eliminated – Norman’s own. His resignation took effect last week.
“I am resigning, not retiring,” he said at his home in Kenton.
Norman came into the Hardin County job with an experience in management. He worked for 25 years with the U.S. State Department and oversaw the daily operations of 300 workers at the U.S. embassy in Belgrade, Serbia.
“I felt I could offer my management skills to the county,” said Norman. “I wanted to come back home and do something for the community.”
Soon after taking over at Job and Family Services, Norman said, he found the challenges he faced were internal situations at the local agency. His new department was $80,000 in debt to the state. Of the 40 workers in the office, 25 percent were managers, said Norman.
The changes at the agency he proposed were needed, he said, and the staff accepted his leadership.
“It is a tribute to the staff and their dedication to this county,” said Norman. “They could have made me fail, but they wanted the agency to work and to provide services to the people.”
An outside consultant was hired to review the situation at the agency, said Norman. As a result of that study, the local agency had a map to make the officer work more efficiently and to take advantage of the money allocated, he said.
Twenty-five percent of the staff was reduced through attrition. While other counties found themselves forced to lay off workers, Hardin County was able to survive by not replacing those who left and also by adjusting the pay scale, said the former director.
‘We used to lose a lot of people,” said Norman.
The workers were trained in Hardin County, but then went to surrounding counties where they could get better salaries, he continued.
“We have not lost a worker to a surrounding county in over a year,” said Norman.
The changes paid off also in the financial turnaround of the agency, Norman said. As he leaves, Job and Family Services has gone from owing the state $80,000 to a carryover of $300,000. But, he continued, most administrators feel an entity needs to have a six-month fiscal reserve available and to meet that goal, another $200,000 is needed.
Hardin County’s Job and Family Services Department is one of the least burdensome in Ohio to the county taxpayers, Norman noted. Compared with local contributions of $186,000 in Wyandot County; $230,000 in Auglaize County and $342,000 in Union County, the local cost of the agency is only $80,000.
Norman want to keep the figure low and in order to better serve the agency, he said, he had to choose between laying off two case workers or stepping aside himself. He chose the latter.
His departure comes at a time when the agency is beginning its Summer Youth Employment program and also is near the end of the fiscal year for the agency. It seemed like a good time to bow out, said Norman.
He is hoping his replacement will be named within days by the county commissioner and it is his hope the job is combined with another position at the agency to save money and improve management.
“The county can no longer afford the luxury of having a full-time director. Those days here have passed,” said Norman.
The interim director is Barb Maxson, who Norman called one of the best fiscal officers in the state.
The issues facing the county are no longer coming from within the department, said Norman, but at a state level.
“I am hopeful that the leadership of the agency after me will continue with the initiatives we were prepared to go into,” he said. “The way I do things is, I am either all in or all out … We turned it around.”
By DAN ROBINSON
Times staff writer