County agency names new director

After working for more than a decade in various divisions of Washington County Children Services, Reno resident Jamie Vuksic is overseeing the entire operation.

Vuksic, 38, had served as interim executive director of the agency since the February retirement of David Copen, who spent 37 years with the agency, more than 30 of them as director. Last week, the Children Services board removed the interim tag from Vuksic’s title.

“It’s still a little intimidating,” Vuksic said of replacing Copen. “Everything seems to be working fine.”

Copen announced his intent to retire in early 2012, and the board went through a search process with candidates from outside the agency, board member Gregg Emrick said. Some were unwilling to relocate for the compensation the board could offer, and others the board simply wasn’t comfortable with.

“At that point, we kind of looked inside,” Emrick said.

Vuksic was given the reins as interim director, giving the board an opportunity to see how he would handle the job.

“During the time that he was interim, everybody on the board – this was a unanimous thing – was pleased with his performance,” Emrick said. “He did a fine job.”

The board is pleased with Vuksic’s relationship with county officials and the morale at the agency, Emrick added.

“It turned out that that was what we believe was the best for the agency,” he said.

Vuksic was hired by the agency in 2002 as a protective case worker. He would go on to serve as a sexual abuse case worker and diversion specialist, in the latter role working with children and the juvenile court system on efforts to keep youth from getting into trouble. In 2009, he became deputy assistant director and has served in interim supervisory roles for the family services and foster care/adoption units.

“I’ve had way too many offices in one building, I can tell you,” Vuksic said with a laugh.

Funding is an ongoing concern for the agency, with more than $1 million lost in recent years to budget cuts at the federal, state and local levels. Vuksic has worked with the Washington County Commission this year on funding transfers, within the agency’s budget, to cover unexpected expenses, particularly for children that had to be placed in care outside the county due to behavioral and emotional issues.

“They’re very easy to work with,” Vuksic said of the commissioners. “They’re a very thorough bunch. … I think they do support us and what we do, but they just want us to be very, very efficient.”

Commission President David White said he’s been impressed with Vuksic.

“Jamie is an energetic, intelligent, very thoughtful person,” he said. “He’s taken his responsibility seriously.”

Vuksic said he believes the agency is operating as efficiently as possible. There are a pair of vacant positions he would like to see funded for 2014, part of the $300,000 increase in funding he’s requested from the commission.

One way the agency is saving money this year is by not increasing salaries for some employees, including Vuksic, who have taken on additional responsibilities. He’s still being paid his prior salary of $51,000, having agreed with the board to a $70,000 salary for his new position starting next year.

Meanwhile, Stephanie Amrine was appointed as interim family services unit supervisor and Teri Wright as interim foster care/adoption supervisor earlier this year, positions Vuksic has now made permanent. Alice Stewart has also taken on the duties of assistant director, in addition to supervising the intake and assessment unit.

“They agreed to all of those appointments … with no salary increase this year,” Vuksic said. “They took on quite a bit more for nothing.”

He said he does plan to include pay increases for the supervisory roles in their salaries for 2014.