Rock Island County Public Health Administrator
How did you choose your career path? That is a difficult question. I just always knew I wanted to help people. I began at the health department as a case manager helping pregnant women and infants in 1993. I moved into a supervisor position of case management of children in foster care in 1995. After Sept. 11, health departments were charged with developing emergency plans in case we would need to dispense medications or vaccinations to every resident. I became director of emergency preparedness in 2005. After Theresa Berg retired in 2015, I became the administrator.
How do you maintain a work/life balance? Life can be pretty hectic. I am often in Springfield or Peoria for meetings. Luckily my children are older now and can get themselves up and off to school (most of the time). My husband works nights which means most of the time we are all together for dinner. This is the best time we spend together and share everything that is going on; from work to band to choir.
What do you look for in a new hire; what questions do you ask in the interview to find the right fit? In public health, we are generally looking for certain skill sets whether it is nursing, social work or clerical positions. In the interview, we try to ask questions that will help us see the applicant’s interests, goals and problem solving skills in a way that shows us their personality as well.
Was there ever a time in your life when you hit an obstacle and had to re-evaluate or rebuild? Public Health is very challenging, especially here in Illinois. The biggest obstacle we face is funding. I have been Administrator for three years and budget issues are definitely the toughest part of my job. Everyone working in public health has a heart for community service. When there are services we can no longer provide, it is very difficult for all of us. But as with everything in life, we must learn to adapt and move forward. It seems every few years, there are new public health challenges that appear that need to be addressed. Health trends change over time; so our services and programs change over time too. Life is not static.
What’s the best thing about doing business in the Quad-Cities? One of the greatest assets in the Quad-Cities is the collaboration among community partners. Everyone I work with is interested in the betterment of the Quad-Cities as a whole. In public health we partner with many community agencies: the hospital systems, schools, churches, social service agencies, universities and colleges, just to name a few.
Do you have any advice for people just starting out in their career? The best advice I could give would be to learn as much as you can within your area. I have learned so much in all the different programs that I have worked in at the health department. I have also learned a lot from all the various community partners. I think that gives you a much broader knowledge of the community we live in and increases your value to an employer.