Interim director and financial officer Mike Pride was named director of the Clermont County Department of Jobs and Family Services Wednesday, March 17.
Pride is dedicated to the difficult task of meeting an increasing need for his department’s services while state and federal funding continues to decline.
“We have more people coming in our doors now than we have ever before,” Pride said. “Right now I’m trying to streamline our procedures to handle the work load.”
"We have tried not to fill retired or resigned positions," Pride said as he himself will maintain his fiscal officer position in addition to serving as director. "We've moved people around without staff reductions, but we're still down 27 positions over the last two years."
While making staff reductions and cutting operational expenses, Pride said demand for services have skyrocketed.
"When the economy is in decline our budget gets cut but our business goes up," Pride said.
The number of county residents receiving cash assistance through the Ohio Works First program jumped 78 percent during an 11 month period from December 2008 to November 2009. At the same time, Children's Protection Services saw a 26 percent increase in child abuse and neglect investigations. Residents needing food assistance was up 27 percent. The Workforce One program, which retrains workers for new employment, helped a record number of county workers last year and was the only program that did not see operational funding cuts.
Pride credited DJFS's ability to maintain service levels while increasing employee work loads to his hard working employees and to the interdepartmental teamwork found among several county agencies.
"For the past several years we've worked very hard with the juvenile court, the board of mental health, the board of developmental disabilities, and the families and children first council to decide how to provide the best possible service for the children of the county," Pride said. "It's a fantastic team effort we've got going and it's really a Clermont County phenomenon."
According to Clermont County Administrator Dave Spinney, the selection panel "undertook an extensive search...and interviewed a number of good candidates." In the end, they found Pride to be the best person for the job.
"Often commissioners must choose between someone with human services experience and someone with good managerial and people skills. Mike is the whole package," said Ohio Job and Family Services Directors' Association Executive Director Joel Potts, in a recommendation letter to the BCC.
Aside from his managerial and people skills, Pride has extensive knowledge of the DJFS funding process. Before joining the Clermont County DJFS for the first time in 1988, he served in the Auditor of the State's office where he reviewed the finances of JFS departments throughout the state.
In order to manage the Clermont County department's $40 million annual budget, Pride must monitor 47 different funding sources, each with their own strings attached.
"He is truly an expert in financial models that are used to obtain services. Given the difficult economic times we are in, a DJFS director must have the ability to deliver services and the expertise to ensure they are properly funded," said Clermont Commissioner Scott Croswell.
Pride said he is already making steps to live within his means. He said his employees have volunteered to take furlough days this year in order to avoid staff reductions. He is speaking with many of his employees to develop plans for streamlining processes.
"I'm in contact with other directors across the state so we can compare methods and try to solicit the best practices possible," Pride said.
Two budget reducing steps he is trying to avoid are reducing non-mandated services and staff reductions.
"Clermont County provides very high quality services compared to other counties," Pride said. "With my experience I'm trying to help Clermont County through a very tough economic time with the least amount of pain possible. It is going to be a very challenging thing."
Pride said he wants to ensure that his employees have the tools they need to be successful, and for many case workers that includes a vehicle. He said the department has not purchased a vehicle in three years and he will need to do so soon.
"I need to see about upgrading the fleet," Pride said. "It's about the safety of not only our workers, but the children they transport."
Pride is concerned about the funding issues he faces, but remains optimistic.
"I have a wonderful staff," Pride said. "In these hard times we have the best team package, but it's money that drives the train."