|By Danielle Jackson
RALEIGH, N.C. — Maria Spaulding, executive director of Wake County Human Services, will retire at the end of the year, concluding a career in public service that spanned almost 35 years, a dozen of them in human services.
As executive director of the agency, Spaulding is responsible for community development and housing, job training and child-support enforcement.
She was hired before the department’s existence, and helped create it 10 years ago.
“It’s probably one of the most comprehensive agencies in the state,” she says.
Spaulding led efforts to consolidate Wake County’s numerous human services agencies that began in 1995.
The major objective, she says, was to look at how the services should be integrated and how conversation could be stimulated among the various professions.
“We’ve reached major progress in 10 years,” she says, adding that much work still must be done. “If you consolidate things and bring it down to the lowest common denominator, I think we have 81 different programs.”
Spaulding credits consolidation as both her greatest accomplishment and greatest challenge.
“We’re setting a stage where people can look at their functions as it connects to other functions, giving them the ability to make connections and change their work so that it’s more effective for the consumer,” she says.
But consolidation is a long-term process, she says, adding that the agency will have to continuously look for better ways to do business.
Spaulding said she expects further challenges for the agency, particularly in serving growing populations, including immigrants.
“We’re growing at a rate of 64 people per day,” she says. “We don’t have enough public-education services in order for good prevention of obesity and sexually transmitted diseases.”
Child-welfare issues, domestic violence, child neglect and drop-out rates are increasing as well, she says.
“We’re being faced with many issues of an urban county, but we’re not sure we’ve positioned ourselves to face that,” she says.
The agency will have to continue working with community and nonprofit groups that address these problems because, she says, “we all need to carve out the role we’re going to play in the lives of people in Wake County.”
Spaulding began her career in state government as a personnel analyst in charge of assessing salary ranges and classifications of jobs throughout the state.
“It gave me a total perspective of state government,” she says.
She then served as assistant personnel director for the office then known as the Department of Natural Resources and Community Development, rising to personnel director for the agency.
Job: Executive director, Wake County Human Services, Raleigh, N.C.
Born: 1950, Siler City, N.C.
Family: Husband, Felton Spaulding; one daughter, Lee Ann
Education: Undergraduate degree, Shaw University; various Government Executive Institute certifications, Kenan-Flagler School of Business, UNC-Chapel Hill
Career: Personnel analyst, state of North Carolina.; assistant personnel director/personnel director, N.C. Department of Natural Resources and Community Development; personnel director, Wake County; franchise owner, coffee and bakery shop, RDU International Airport; assistant county manager, Wake County.
Community service: Ending Homelessness in the Next Ten Years Leadership Council, Triangle United Way; board of trustees, Shaw University; board of directors, A.J. Fletcher Foundation; advisory board, State Employees Credit Union.
Hobbies: Traveling, recently to Hawaii and Mexico; plans to travel throughout North Carolina
Inspiration: Parents – “They gave so much of their lives to me, and continue to do so even now. It’s hard for me to compete with that as it relates to my own child.”
|After several years of service, including stints in Gov. Jim Hunt’s administration, she was hired as personnel director for Wake County, playing an integral role in developing its personnel office.
Spaulding then served as assistant county manager for Wake County and soon after was assigned to the human-services side of the agency.
“The county manager at the time wanted to see that we worked more closely with department heads at human services – mental health, substance abuse and developmental disabilities,” she says. “It was the first step in consolidating all of the departments.”
Spaulding now plans to take a few months’ rest.
Her last day of work will be Dec. 31, but she will continue to serve on various boards throughout the county, including Triangle United Way and the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, which publishes the Philanthropy Journal.
Barbara Goodmon, president of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation and long-time friend, says Spaulding’s leadership on critical issues and her impact on the county have been significant.
“I’ve worked with Maria on getting policy issues as far as the county goes, and getting what we needed in human services,” she says. “Those things Maria is just good at.”
“The people of Wake County,” Goodmon says, “are really going to miss her, whether they know her or not, for what she has done as an advocate in human services.”