The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

April 3, 2014

Board praises outgoing social-services chief

By Joe Mahoney Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — COOPERSTOWN — Much has changed in society since Joyce Boyd went to work for the Otsego County Social Services Department 39 years ago, and, she said Wednesday, it hasn’t been for the better.

“I think the needs today are much more urgent,” said Boyd, who recently retired as the county’s commissioner of social services, a position that put her in charge of 135 employees in the largest agency in the county.

“We have a tremendous need for affordable housing in this county, and we have a need for employment that will support families,” she said in an interview. “We have a lot of drugs and alcohol impacting families here. I think there is more of a crisis.”

Boyd, 62, started with the department as keypunch operator in 1975 and rose through the ranks, becoming a social welfare examiner before moving on to the berth of director of income maintenance, learning new facets of the social safety net bureaucracy along the way.

When she became deputy commissioner, she said, it exposed her to the many child welfare issues facing the department. She became the commissioner in 2007.

On Wednesday, Boyd was in the audience as the Board of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution stating that Boyd “has with compassion and diplomatic intuition devoted herself to represent the county’s best interests in all human services matters and has served the residents of this county with diligent commitment and sincerity.”

The county board’s chairwoman, Rep. Kathy Clark, R-Otego, praised Boyd, saying she consistently exhibited “a type of dedication and competence that are rare commodities.” Catherine Rothenberger of Oneonta, a former county representative who had headed the social services committee, also heaped praise on Boyd, as did Rep. Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, who now chairs the committee.

Boyd saluted her staff, and said she will greatly miss them, though she plans to remain in the region.

Accounting for the acuteness of social service needs lately is a combination of factors, including the recent recession, the scarcity of jobs and the increasing fragility of family bonds, she said.

“I think it’s the way society is going in general,” she observed. “I’m usually a very optimistic person, but I don’t see things improving without some real effort on somebody’s part. It think there needs to be greater collaborations between businesses and government, with private money, government money, churches, everyone collaborating. We’re limited in what we can do. I think we need outside investment.”

Boyd’s deputy commissioner, Eve Bouboulis, was named acting commissioner Wednesday while the county opens a search for a permanent commissioner.

The commissioner job pays $65,000 a year, and because the salaries of county managers have remained frozen for more than six years, it is not immediately clear if the board is prepared to offer a higher salary to Boyd’s replacement.

Board members favoring keeping pay flat have cited strains on the county budget as the reason for not approving cost-of-living increases.

But Koutnik said if the logjam remains unbroken, “it’s going to make Otsego County a less-inviting place to work.”

Boyd’s departure was related to personal matters, not to the debate over county salaries, officials said.