Four women with one mission.
The women -- Debra Anderson, Gwen Leifermann, Joyce Mueller and Sheila Skogen. The mission -- to provide services to protect and promote the health of all people in Crow Wing County.
The four women work as a team managing the Crow Wing County Public Health Department. They all took on new roles after Carol Carlson, the county's former community health services administrator, retired Jan. 21 after 30 years of service.
This public health administration team is the first of its kind in Minnesota, said Leifermann. She said this type of organizational structure is not traditional.
When the county administrator approached the then supervisors to come up with a recommendation to fill Carlson's position, they scrambled for ideas.
Anderson said they not only lost Carlson, they also lost Judy Rian, county public health nurse supervisor, who retired Dec. 31 after 25 years of service.
"That was enough change right there in our department," said Anderson. "We thought about appointing one person to take over, but then we knew that would add to even more change with the shifting of duties."
The four women decided they all would split Carlson's duties and continue to do their own duties. They agreed this would cause the least change in the department. The Crow Wing County Board agreed in late January and the women went to work.
The plan is working.
"We bring new perspectives to the table," said Leifermann. "We have active debates on staff issues, programs cuts and visions for the future."
Mueller said all of them know if there is a disagreement, it is not personal.
"We don't always agree," added Anderson. "But that's OK. We agree to disagree."
One of the hardest issues the women had to face was tackling the budget.
Skogen said making decisions on how to cut $71,729 in programs for 2004 was difficult. Working as a team, they all had a say in the cuts, she said. Previously, with one administrator, that person had the final say.
"That's the beauty of this team," said Skogen. "We have an awesome staff and they are part of our planning. They are very supportive and that helps us. You can't be a leader if no one is following."
With four people in charge, one nearly always is in the office, regardless of vacations, to address staff or client questions in a timely fashion.
The county saved money by not hiring an administrator, even though all received a pay raise. Carlson earned $72,324 in 2002. The pay raises cost the county about $24,000.
Anderson now is family health manager. She represents the public health department at several county and state meetings. She also reviews more overall reports and must keep up with state mandates.
Leifermann is home health manager; Mueller is disease prevention and control/environmental and public health preparedness manager; and Skogen is administrative assistant.
Skogen said one of her focuses is to keep the four of them on task. She makes administrative decisions as necessary regarding professional staff questions or needs.
All four women share the day-to-day responsibilities. They said the support from the Crow Wing County Board, county administrator and the Minnesota Department of Health was appreciated.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.