By Carrie Topliffe, Interim Public Health Director, Santa Barbara County
Front row seat available! I’ll be ending my term on the CSDA board at the end of December and urge YOU to apply for it. It comes complete with many fond memories and some juicy stories that I’ll be happy to whisper in your ear once you get elected at the November 2017 annual meeting. Apply!
Please don’t let the long board agenda packets or the monthly meetings in Sacramento dissuade you. I guarantee you will thoroughly enjoy the many nuanced discussions on a variety of topics as you work with your fellow board members to set a policy direction that will advance the CA child support program, maintain a healthy organization with sound policies and satisfied, high-performing employees, and keep us all out of jail. (If you think CSDA falls short of your vision in any of those areas, well hey, I didn’t say there wasn’t some work involved.)
I want to tell you, though, that LCSA executives are incredibly talented, and it’s inspiring to work closely and develop bonds with peers from all parts of the state. In my tenure, we have had struggles and growing pains over employee turnover, confidentiality, our identity as an association, and our relationships with other organizations in our child support community. Sound familiar? However, it was well worth it to work with so many smart, experienced, and good-hearted LCSA executives on the CSDA board. I am proud that we created a covenant to guide board behavior, restructured our agendas to give more focus to strategic discussions, restructured and reduced dues, and managed the challenging transition from one executive director to another.
With my CPA credential, it’s no wonder that I was invited to be association treasurer (not an obligation of running for an open seat—officers are chosen by the board later). As a board officer, I can’t say enough about the magnificent performance of our presidents and how impressed I have been by their leadership. You should have been up close to see how President Jamie Murray and Vice President Sharon Wardale-Trejo converged regularly on the CSDA offices to make sure there was no lapse in association performance when we found ourselves suddenly without an ED. A transition like that requires multifaceted skills, not to mention handling loads of administrative minutiae, and those two did it. Transitioning to president herself, Sharon’s wry presentation style and superb policy analysis chops have been a pleasure to experience. And now we are in the hands of Natalie Dillon, who excels in organizational skills and the ability to present complex subjects in a very understandable manner. Each of these talented women has done incredible work in advancing the association. And you incoming board members will have the fun of working with President Don Semon. I have loved sitting across the table from Don during his year as vice president. He has one of the most expressive faces I have ever seen, and to watch him experience every twist and turn of a conversation almost makes me forget what the subject is.
For me personally, things got sticky in 2017 when I took a short-term assignment as Santa Barbara’s Interim Public Health Director. Without my standing as a Child Support Director, I also lost my standing to hold a board seat. To continue to fulfill my role as treasurer, I became a consultant to the board without a vote on board matters. Though I trained myself to keep quiet when the questions were called, it was a happy day when I officially returned to child support and joined the board again in August 2017. In the meantime, I am working to update the written financial policies of the association to provide a good roadmap for the next board.
It is often difficult to recruit board members, and we all have many competing claims on our time. I think you will find service on the board to be a valuable part of your child support growth and education. Hope to see your name on the ballot.
Photos – Carrie posing proudly with Conference signage