I must say that I was more than a bit surprised, somewhat incredulous when Lisa Fijalkowski, a top level manager with over 28 years with the department and for the previous nine months served as Interim Director, was not selected to fill the position of permanent Director of the Belmont County Department of Job and Family Services, following a recent 2-1 vote by the Belmont County Board of Commissioners, who serve as the department’s appointing authority.
From what I understand Ms. Fijalkowski, who was willing to step forward and answer the “call of duty” during a most controversial and challenging period for the local agency with very positive and encouraging results, speaks volumes of her competence and character and I feel, was most deserving of permanent placement into the Director’s position.
Although, other top candidates without question also possessed outstanding qualifications for the position, Ms. Fijalkowski was the only candidate with experience and expertise in the position of Agency Director.
Ms. Fijalkowski, during her tenure as Interim Director, undoubtedly earned the support and confidence of those of whom she had supervised, local agencies and clients alike, and by any estimation was viewed to have “passed the audition” most successfully.
Recently a petition in support of Ms. Fijalkowski to serve as the agency’s permanent Director, which contained signatures of over 75 percent of agency employees, was presented to County Commissioners, but to no avail.
Some of Ms. Fijalkowski’s accomplishments during her tenure as interim Director include: Assisting in the successful transition of services to area seniors to the newly formed Senior Services of Belmont County; was able to secure a “$150,000 grant for shared services between local agencies (which was one of only 11 such grants awarded state-wide); the formation of T.R.I.P.S. (Transportation Resources and Individualized Planning Services), which would provide a coordinated transportation service to low income individuals, seniors, veterans and the disabled; and initiated an intra-office newsletter to help improve communications within the agency as well as a fraud investigation that led to $90,000 to be returned to the agency.
I would be curious as to what may have been the rationale behind Ms. Fijalkowski not be rewarded for her stellar performance and outstanding achievements, and if there perhaps may have been concern over any aspect of her performance, if the Commissioners, who decided to essentially reject her candidacy, as to such concurs, while giving her the opportunity to make needed improvements? If such had not been done, the lack of needed oversight by the appointing party would be unconscionable and would lead one to the possible conclusion that factors other than performance and dedication may have well played a significant role in Ms. Fijalkowski not being selected to lead the agency that for the last nine months has indeed led and for more than 28 years has served so well.