By Benjamin J Gohs, News Editor
The Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the hiring of new Charlevoix County Commission On Aging Executive Director Shirley Gillespie last week.
Out of nine applications and five interviews, she was the finalist for the COA leadership position, Gillespie was publicly interviewed by the board during the Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners’ regular Wednesday April 10 meeting.
“I do the community resource coordination and I also do adult services supervision,” Gillespie said. “Being a community resource coordinator I’m out in the community and I’m pretty much the liaison between the community and DHS and DHS and the community to let them know what’s going on.”
Gillespie gave a brief overview of her biography and work experience before commissioners questioned her.
She spent the last 19 years with the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS).
Prior jobs include working with the Services for the Aging as a caseworker dealing with the home-delivered meal program and other duties in Gladwin County.
She also worked in a nursing home as a caseworker and before she was hired full-time with DHS.
Her specialties have been adult protective services, adult independent living services, children’s foster care and protective services and she has been a manager with DHS for the last seven years.
Gillespie said she has been involved with many projects and she also worked in adult protective services in the Charlevoix-Emmet area.
Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners Chairman Joel Evans (R-District 4) said he has known Gillespie for some time and is glad she applied for the position.
Charlevoix County Commissioner Larry Sullivan (R-District 6) asked and was told that Shirley Gillespie has no relation to Charlevoix County Commissioner Rich Gillespie (R-District 5).
Charlevoix County Commissioner Ron Reinhardt (R-District 3) asked Gillespie what type of personnel management experience she had.
“I conduct interviews with one of our other managers…. I’ve been involved with terminations of employees and also with the counseling that goes before that,” she said. “I’m also kind of the go-to; if they have a question or concern they come to me.”
Charlevoix County Commissioner George T. Lasater (R-District 1) asked Gillespie a series of questions and received the following answers:
Gillespie is a resident of Charlevoix County.
Three of her strong points are that she is self-motivated, has strong leadership skills and enjoys speaking in public.
Areas she needs improvement were, according to Gillespie, that she is looking forward to working in an area not served by DHS and to get to know people in Charlevoix County in a “different light.”
If there was any animosity with the current COA, how she would deal with it is by using honesty and sitting down with people to find out face-to-face to identify issues and discuss them.
Gillespie will keep the county board informed by approaching commissioners with any issues on matters.
Sullivan asked Gillespie how knowledgeable she was on the COA’s activities and what the major focus should be as far as services and operations were.
“I’m very familiar with the services … plus I work with a lot of the people from the area who receive those services,” She said. “I not only attend a lot of meetings but I also participate and am actively involved in a lot of those things.”
Gillespie said she has worked with the poverty simulation exercises to help grow awareness about elder poverty.
“I’m looking at the future,” she said. “You always have to do more with less and I’m looking forward to that challenge.”
Gillespie said there needs to be a balance of both home services and activities at the local senior centers to meet the needs of all seniors.
Lasater asked what the salary would be for the new director and was told that that will have to be negotiated.
He also asked if the names of candidates had been given to the local media prior to the interview process.
Charlevoix County Human Resources Coordinator Kevin Shepard said “they FOIA’d the names” and were given them shortly before the meeting.
It should be noted that the Boyne City Gazette was not the member of the “media” in question that submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the names.
Charlevoix County Commissioner Chris Christensen (R-District 2) said he understands that this is a public position but felt there needed to be a certain degree of privacy so as not to cost them their current positions while they search for other work.
Reinhardt agreed that the names should not have been released ahead of time to ensure the candidates’ privacy.
Sullivan said he would like to see a formalized hiring policy devised to address such an issue in the future.
Gillespie is expected to start in her new position by the end of April. The county must still negotiate her salary though it is expected to be less than what former COA Executive Director Jack Messer earned when he recently left.