By Mike Heine/The Week
(Published Jan. 18, 2007, 9:38 a.m.)
Administrator David Bretl announced Tuesday that he will nominate Linda Seemeyer, Milwaukee County's director of administrative services, to take over a department that underwent stressful changes within the past year.
Seemeyer, who still needs approval from the health and human services committee and the county board, will replace former director Diane 'Dani' Maculan.
Maculan, hired in February 2005, orchestrated a massive restructuring that saved millions of dollars but soured the attitudes of many employees due to her people skills. She resigned Aug. 14.
Dr. David Thompson, a contracted county psychologist, was named interim director and will stay on as deputy director along with Liz Aldred, the health and alcohol and other drug addiction (AODA) services manager, according to a news release from Bretl's office.
After hearing the contents of Bretl's press release, human services employee union representative Pat Sharp (AFSCME) said she feels Seemeyer will come in as an administrative head and leave the procedural operations to Thompson and Aldred, who she said employees feel comfortable with.
"It seems we're headed in the right direction. I hope this new administrator, when she comes in here, will continue that direction," Sharp said.
"My expectation is she's going to be responsible for the overall performance of the agency, but I've been pleased with the direction the agency has been going under the direction of David Thompson," Bretl said. "He's given considerable time putting together a management structure that will help make Linda successful."
Seemeyer has been one of Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's top cabinet members since July 2002.
"I think anyone who has ever worked with her, whether in state or county government, will tell you she is very good at bringing very diverse coalitions of people together," Walker said. "She'd make a great diplomat someday if she ever wanted to.
"She's often able to bring not only government employees together, but folks in the private sector together. That's probably her best attribute. She's very good at coalition building. (She's) very sharp, very confident."
Prior to accepting her Milwaukee job, Seemeyer was in the state Department of Administration since 1991, holding division administrator, executive assistant and deputy director positions under former governors Tommy Thompson and Scott McCallum.
In her government career, Seemeyer ran departments that dealt with how the governments ran. This will be her first position leading a department that deals directly with the public.
"I think it's just a really interesting challenge for me," said Seemeyer, 58. "I have been in government for a long time. I've always done the administrative side of things. I'm thrilled to be in a department that's providing direct services to people."
Seemeyer said it was premature to comment on what it would take to run a department that was largely at odds with its previous director.
"I think if you talk to the people that work with me, (you'll find) I'm a facilitator by nature," Seemeyer said. "I have had an open communication style and I do now. I will partner with people. From what I understand, the previous director brought needed fiscal changes to the department. Now it's time to move on together. I will do all I can to let people know I will help them do their jobs, not get in the way."
Bretl said Seemeyer's nomination is "part of a larger restructuring effort."
Part of her duties will be recommending changes aimed at consolidating management of the Lakeland Health Care Center into the health and human services department. Lakeland Health Care Center is operating 2007 on a budget of about $4.5 million. When the county board decided to downsize the facility in 2003, projections were for a $3.5 million operating subsidy.
"We made a commitment to the taxpayers when we downsized to build a new nursing home," Bretl said. "We did not achieve that in the 2007 budget. We need to and we will. The bottom line is we need to operate more efficiently."
Current nursing home Administrator Phyllis Williams will continue in her position, according to the release.
She not be reached.
Seemeyer's impending hiring will be a homecoming of sorts. She and her husband, Bill, have lived in the town of East Troy for years. Their adult twin daughters went through the East Troy School District, Seemeyer said.
Seemeyer's start date, if approved, is in late February, Bretl. She has not yet officially resigned from her Milwaukee County post.
Her annual salary here will be about $108,000.
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