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Winchester DSS director to lead Shenandoah County agency

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

A new director takes over the Shenandoah County Department of Social Services next month to fill the position for retiring chief John Ayres.

Carla Taylor, the director of the social services department in Winchester, plans to resign from her position in the city to take the same job in Shenandoah County, according to press releases from both localities.

"I'm very excited about this obviously," Taylor said by phone Wednesday. "I've been getting to know the Shenandoah [County] community a little bit over the years through my affiliation with [Ayers] and so he has spoken so highly of the community, and then my initial impression of them so far for myself are so positive that I'm looking forward to the challenge and the welcome that I'll receive down there.

"I'm hoping that I can bring something of value to the community and keep it on its path to becoming a strong, vibrant community, you know, the vision that it set for itself," Taylor added.

The board of directors of the Shenandoah County department announced Taylor's appointment Wednesday. Taylor begins her job as the agency's director on Sept. 10, according to a press release from Lillie Fleming, chairwoman of the board. Taylor submitted her resignation effective Sept. 3, according to a press release from Joel Davis, public information officer for Winchester. Taylor has worked for the city's DSS department for more than seven years. Winchester City Manager Dale Iman expects to appoint an interim director to department prior to Taylor's departure.

"She already knows the area, you know, and our community, which is very important," Ayres said by phone.

Ayres did not take part in the search and hiring process, but he expressed satisfaction with the board's choice for his successor. The county advertised the position in the spring.

"We have a very experienced board," Ayres said. "They've been on for years so they really knew what they wanted, they knew what they were looking for. I'm so happy that Carla did apply and did accept. She's been quite a leader in our region."

"I feel comfortable retiring now that there'll be continuity in the agency with a strong leader taking over," Ayers added.

Social services departments operate under similar guidelines and run mandated programs, Taylor explained. But each department also may take on specific programs or initiatives identified to the coverage area, Taylor said. While Winchester and Shenandoah County are in close proximity to each other, Taylor said she expects to find differences between the two departments.

"Certainly this has a more urban feel to it here and Shenandoah has a more rural feel in many areas, although it also has wonderful, strong towns within its borders," Taylor said. "But I'm sure there'll be some differences and I am looking forward to learning that. I enjoyed learning what I did about Winchester and it'll be really fun getting to know the Shenandoah community."

Taylor worked for nonprofit organizations in the Fairfax area, with a focus on housing, homelessness and prisoner reentry into the community, before taking the position in Winchester. Taylor noted this experience has helped her in the work with the social services department. Taylor said she looks forward to partnering with nonprofit groups in Shenandoah County.

"Nonprofits and public human services are just different ways to attack the same issues and it's really helpful to appreciate how some of my community partners exist and what they need for sustainability and how mission-driven they are because, like a public-sector entity, the organization is only as good as its reputation and its mission and, having come from that environment, I can really appreciate some of their struggles and also the opportunity -- nonprofits can do some things public agencies can't."

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