Big changes coming to Butler County social services agencies after retirement

Changes will be coming to Butler County’s social service agencies after the coming retirement of Job and Family Services Executive Director Bill Morrison and promotions in two key positions.

Morrison will retire effective May 7, and Children Services Director Julie Gilbert moved into his position temporarily this week with a 5% pay increase to $99,131. The position will be posted, but Gilbert is the leading candidate to receive the permanent promotion, as will JFS Assistant Director Shannon Glendon who was temporarily moved to fill the top Children Services post. Her new salary is 84,219.

“We’re pretty much going to have the same top people we have right now except Bill’s going to be gone,” Commissioner Don Dixon told the Journal-News. “But he’s assured us there’s not a better team in Ohio, and he hasn’t told us wrong yet.”

Morrison has been grooming Gilbert and Glendon as his predecessors for several years. Commissioner Cindy Carpenter voted against the temporary move, but not because she doubts they can handle the new responsibilities. She preferred leaving Glendon at the JFS department while they search for Morrison’s replacement.

“There needs to be a plan for all of the agencies, not just a partial plan,” she told the Journal-News. “I’ve enjoyed working with both of the women, there is nothing disparaging about either of them, they are fully capable.”

As executive director, Morrison was responsible for Children Services; JFS, which manages public assistance; OhioMeansJobs and the Child Support Enforcement Agency. Children Services has its own facility on Fair Avenue; JFS and CSEA are in the Government Services Center and Ohio Means Jobs has it’s standalone office in Fairfield.

Morrison told the commissioners he thought carefully before recommending the moves. Children Services is a critical cog in the operation and had a rough history before Morrison and his team came in, with staff shortages and morale problems, an ugly union strike in 2014, issues with state compliance and more.

He said Gilbert has been very involved with the workings of the public assistance and other JFS functions, and there is a seasoned staff to help her transition. Glendon was an administrator and ombudsman — liaison with the public when issues arise — at Children Services before being promoted to her assistant JFS director position.

“My concern is if we didn’t make the secondary move with Shannon to Fair Avenue when you look at Children Services, it’s really our flashpoint,” Morrison said. “It’s where something can go wrong that has real consequences within our community. Having full-time leadership onsite there during this transition period, I felt like it was just too important of a need for us to ignore.”

Morrison has worn many hats in the county’s social service world, taking his first job as a family team leader in 2005. He was appointed ombudsman in 2006, later served as assistant director and elevated to CS director in 2015.

A series of events catapulted him to the top of the entire agency. Former JFS executive director Jerome Kearns was demoted to assistant JFS director and the commissioners elevated former executive director for the Child Support Enforcement Agency Ray Pater in September 2016. Kearns had announced he was leaving the agency and since Pater was on a two-month leave, Kearns was training Morrison to handle JFS business. Three days later Kearns died suddenly just before Christmas. Morrison was named assistant director and then interim director after Pater resigned in 2017.

Children Services has had issues for years, with directors coming and going and the JFS side had its own problems. Morrison told the Journal-News he is glad to be leaving this way.

“The only thing that really matter once you leave is the people you leave behind and the skills that they’ve developed,” Morrison said. “I think one of the things I’m most proud of is we’re presenting the organization with a normal transition of authority where somebody is retiring in good graces, not some trauma-filled event.”

Morrison has forged ahead with many initiatives, including an overhaul of both Children Services and the public assistance side of the agency and pursuing some new contracts that pull in help from many facets of the community. He has outsourced programs like Family Preservation to take advantage of Medicaid dollars, to name a few.

The 67-year-old grandfather of nine plans to spend time with his grandchildren, go golfing and fishing, and possibly do some consulting and writing.

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