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Westmoreland

Westmoreland leaders shake up human services positions

Rich Cholodofsky
| Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, 5:06 p.m.

Westmoreland County commissioners will abandon their move to consolidate social service programs as part of a reshuffling of administrative staff approved this month.

The $96,000 human services director position created in 2012 for Dick Matson to oversee the Children's Bureau, mental health services and programs for elderly residents will remain vacant after commissioners last week tabbed him to take over as director of behavioral health services.

“The whole idea to do that was to consolidate and save money. The other department needs have superseded it,” Commissioner Charles Anderson said.

Anderson and former commissioner Tyler Courtney created the job for Matson and directed him to spearhead an effort to secure a state block grant for human service funding for the county.

Matson coordinated all social services and has won state block grants for human services for the county every year since 2013. Over the last five years, his duties expanded to include chairing a drug overdose task force and later to serve as interim director of the Area Agency on Aging.

Last year, Matson was transferred to take over as director of the county's juvenile detention center while still serving as human services director.

Commissioners said the retirement last month of behavioral services department director Austin Breegle created a vacancy that an advisory board recommended Matson to fill.

Matson will continue to earn his $96,000 salary.

“Everyone will be working together, and everyone will be stepping up to the plate,” said Commissioner Gina Cerilli.

Human service programs account for more than $112 million this year, about 36 percent of the county's $310 million budget.

Matson's move started a domino effect of administrative staff transfers.

His job as head of the juvenile detention center will be filled later this year.

Meanwhile, commissioners promoted Kate Johnson, the interim head of the Area Agency on Aging, to run that department on a full-time basis. Johnson started working for the county in 1981 and has served as an administrator in the aging department since 2005. She will receive a $9,000 raise, increasing her salary to about $79,000 annually.

“She is hands-down the most capable person for the job. It's long overdue. She is outstanding and she will do well,” said Commissioner Ted Kopas.

Additional staff changes approved by commissioners are:

• Nick Caesar, former deputy director of the county's public safety department, was hired as a detective under District Attorney John Peck. Caesar, a former chief of the park police department, took a $9,000 pay cut in accepting the new detective job.

• Scott Stepanovich, who previously served as deputy director of the county's department of financial administration, will fill Caesar's old position in public safety. Stepanovich will earn an annual salary of $62,277.

Cerilli opposed the hiring, saying she objected to awarding Stepanovich the job at a salary about $10,000 more than the previous base rate for the position.

Commissioners are expected to meet with human service department directors this week to discuss implementation of their new duties.

“We're playing musical chairs here, but I believe we have people in the right spots,” Kopas said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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