DSS leader wants to bring in new people with ‘better ideas’

Posted at 9:59 PM, May 21, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-21 23:42:52-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- Mayor Dwight Jones’ pick to oversee Richmond’s troubled Department of Social Services told CBS 6 she wants to “bring in new people with better ideas” to work for the agency.

Debra Gardner is the new Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of Human Services, which means she will oversee DSS, Justice Services and Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities.

Gardner worked as a social worker for seven years, and most recently held an administrative position with Virginia’s Department of Corrections.

“I am ready for this,” Gardner said.

She is the third person to take over the leadership position in the past couple of years.

“Are you aware of all the problems this agency has had?” CBS 6’s Melissa Hipolit asked Gardner.

“You’ve had to be living under a rock not to…but as far as knowing the details, no I don’t,” Gardner said.

Most recently, the city’s top investigator found DSS employees were closing cases of potential abuse without properly investigating them.

Gardner told CBS 6 personnel changes, and better training, are her top priorities to fix the issues.

“Once you start bringing in new people with better ideas and better trained…we will be able to recruit and retain better people in those positions,” Gardner said.

She said she plans to work closely with City Auditor Umesh Dalal to improve the agency.

“We did talk to the Inspector General, and I understand they have laid out some of the issues and that we are going to address all of those things they have pointed out to us,” Gardner said.