Editorial: New DHS head has hard job ahead
BY World's Editorials Writers
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
10/17/12 at 3:43 AM
Name the most difficult job in state government. No, the answer is not governor. As far as sheer magnitude of responsibility the award would go the director of the sprawling Department of Human Services.
DHS has a new director - Ed Lake, a retired deputy commissioner and 39-year employee of the Tennessee Department of Human Services. He takes office Nov. 1 as the agency prepares for a Nov. 6 state question vote that could abolish the DHS oversight commission, requiring Lake to answer directly to the governor.
If the state question is approved, the nine-member commission would be abolished. New legislation allowing the governor to appoint the director, with Senate approval, would go into effect. Four advisory councils would be created to help craft policy for these functions: developmental disabilities, child welfare, aging and human resources.
DHS has faced repeated controversies in recent years, including the high-profile deaths of children brought to the attention of DHS and the class-action lawsuit addressing foster care that ended in a settlement that could prompt far-reaching changes.
Lake emphasizes that his two main objectives are to successfully implement the agency's Pinnacle Plan, the child-welfare improvement plan that grew out of the lawsuit settlement, and to improve the overall image of DHS. Both objectives are crucial.
Wes Lane, chairman of the DHS oversight commission, contends that "Ed Lake is the right man at the right time." We certainly hope that Lane is correct. We hope that Lake, who retired last year in Tennessee, is able to come into DHS with enthusiasm and energy.
One of the keys to running any huge bureaucracy well is to empower workers and to give them ownership in their units and in the agency's overall mission.
Lake appears to be a capable, experienced manager who retired in Tennessee with high marks. He has a chance to make his mark in Oklahoma by doing exactly what's he's promised - carrying out the Pinnacle Plan and allowing DHS - through restoring public confidence - to take back its good name.
Original Print Headline: Good luck