ST. CLAIRSVILLE A new interim director of the Belmont County Department of Job and Family Services was named during a special session of the county commissioners Thursday. Lisa Fijalkowski, who has worked at the DJFS department since 1985, had served as supervisor of Public Assistance and supervisor of the Fraud/Investigation/Benefit Recovery Unit.
Commissioners noted she has more than 27 years of experience in public assistance and public service with proven experience in supervising productive teams.
Her annual salary is $80,000. The appointment will last until a permanent director is appointed, at which point Fijalkowski will be entitled to return to her prior position and rate of pay.
She was voted to the office by Commissioners Ginny Favede and Charles R. Probst, Jr. Commissioner Matt Coffland was not present for the vote. The commissioners could not be reached for comment.
Fijalkowski said she was surprised by the news, but is confident of her ability to take on the task. She added that her experience and familiarity with the workings of the agency and the different agency departments will prove valuable in the continuing transition.
"Everyone that works out here knows me, and we know that we can get the job done," she said.
"I worked at several different departments in the agency. I have awesome managers and they run their individual departments. I'll just be overseeing those things," she said. "I expect an extremely smooth transition. I don't foresee any trouble whatsoever."
Fijalkowski added that she would work closely with the commissioners on ongoing issues and operations.
"I will be in very close contact with all of the commissioners," she said. "I'm going to fulfill those duties as the director until such time as they find another director."
She added that the interim directorship was effective immediately and her experience with the department meant little training or preparation was necessary.
"I'm going to jump in with both feet," she said.
"Our business and everyone in our departments is ever-changing. It's dealing with constant change. You need to be on top of all of the changes," she said, adding that some of the current and ongoing issues the department is facing include the Medicaid expansion and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. "That's huge. That's happening right now."
She added that she will also trust to the expertise of the other agency heads. She added that DJFS operations and services to the citizens have continued smoothly.
"I'll get guidance from the commissioners to make it as smooth as possible for the employees that work here and for the community that we service. That's my main goal, to make sure that our benefits still get delivered to the customers that depend on us," she said. "We have amazing employees that work here. Sometimes they get thrown a curve, but whenever they do they come right back and bounce right back. They do an awesome job."
The Department of Job and Family Services is responsible for addressing such needs as families requiring financial assistance, going through domestic troubles, and children in need of the resources the department can provide.
"I'm excited to get started."
DeFrank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org