Tipton named FWHS Director

Times Observer photo by Stacey Gross Ronna Tipton has been named the new director of Forest-Warren Human Services.

The interim is over.

Ronna Tipton, who has been acting as the Interim Director of Forest-Warren Human Services (FWHS) since March, when then-director Mary Kushner retired, officially locked in her position on Monday. Following Kushner’s retirement, all six commissioners of both Warren and Forest counties began a process of recruitment, research, screening, and interviews of potential new directors, according to a press release issued Monday. The process of filling the position of director included input from the agency’s governing and advisory boards, with guidance from the state’s Department of Human Services.

“As a lifelong resident of Warren County,” said Tipton, “I am greatly honored to accept the challenge that has been given to me, and look forward to serving both Forest and Warren Counties to the best of my ability, supported by great teammates.”

Tipton said on Wednesday that she has a vision for how she’d like to guide the agency going forward, and that she anticipates any transition periods to be smooth and brief. “I think that we already do a good job supporting our families and maintaining relationships with the community and other providers,” said Tipton. That being said, she did indicate that she has a handful of ideas for regional projects to bring the county’s human services situation into its next incarnation, all of which will involve strengthening and growing the established relationships with providers, while forging new and enriched relationships within the community, between providers, and most importantly, she said, with the families receiving services both presently and in the future.

“We’re going to be looking at gaps,” in offered services, said Tipton, and trying to find ways to meet needs that have gone unmet or undermet up to now. Emergency preparedness, both for the agency and the individuals and families it serves, will be one of the more immediate focuses of service creation. Additionally, she said, FWHS will be reaching out and looking for ways to work with other county entities whose goals and projects dovetail nicely with their own.

Part of her strategy as director, Tipton said, will be to empower departments within the agency to undertake the decision-making processes that affect them, steering courses that make sense and ease the workload of staff while increasing agency efficiency overall. The goal, she said, is to increase collaboration both within the agency itself and between the agency and outside entities, including the commissioners’ office.

“I’m giving open-door access to our county commissioners,” said Tipton, indicating that all three of the commissioners are invited to “stop in and see what’s happening at FWHS anytime they can,” adding that they have already been making good on the open invitation to collaborate.

For their part, both Commissioner Eggleston and Commissioner Kafferlin stated their trust in having chosen the right woman to fill the enormous role of director. “I have every confidence in Ronna’s ability to guide and manage our Department of Human Services. She has proven herself over the last few months and I’m pleased with her leadership ability and desire to help our constituents.”

Eggleston agreed, expressing that he was pleased with the decision. “Ronna Tipton is eminently qualified for this position and an great asset to this agency, its staff, and the community as a whole. She’ll make a wonderful director for many years to come.”

Tipton said that FWHS originally encompassed early intervention, drug and alcohol, mental health, and developmental disabilities services under one umbrella, with children and youth services functioning as a separate department. That, she said, is the direction the agency will once again be going, adding that such restructuring of services will be getting underway in the months to come.

Tipton graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Science, and holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Walden University. Tipton began her career with FWHS in what was then the “Mental Retardation Department,” She worked several years as a Program Manager supervising both adult and childrens’ group homes through Northwest Human Development before leaving to provide Vocational Rehabilitation services to individuals with Choice Enterprises. In 2005, Tipton returned to FWHS as the Developmental Disabilities Associate Director, and has been with the agency in that capacity for the past 13 years. Tipton lives in Warren with her husband, Ryan Tipton, and two sons Jonah and Owen.

More than any formal education, Tipton said, she is uniquely suited to meet the needs of those receiving services through the agency because of her shared experiences with them. Tipton said that she’s had the opportunity to experience the services offered from both sides of the table. That shared experience of having been on the other side of the table is what Tipton said gives her the ability to guide FWHS toward even greater empathy and care in service delivery than it already achieves.