Hicks now Social Services Director, not interim - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Hicks now Social Services Director, not interim


It's going to take longer than originally expected to fix Richmond's troubled Department of Social Services. The man tapped to examine the issues for an original six-month time period, has now been named the agency director.

A note sent throughout city hall notifies officials David Hicks has moved from the interim director of DSS, to its full-time director.

When Mayor Dwight Jones named one of the highest people in his administration to take on DSS, it was supposed to be only for a six month fact-finding mission. David Hicks' goal was to find out exactly why the agency can't seem to solve problems that continually put children in danger. After some investigation, though, that timeline needed to change.

"It's going to be way longer than six months," he told NBC12 in an exclusive interview Wednesday. "I'll tell you that. You don't change the culture of an agency, especially one this large and one that's been under-performing as long as this one; that definitely isn't going to be a six month. That would be a magic wand."

Despite the expectations, officials have learned there isn't a magic wand to fix an agency with a $65 million budget and almost 500 employees working with a 26% poverty rate. With what Hicks has uncovered in just five months at DSS, the change needs to strike at the heart of this agency's mission.

"We lost our way," he explained. "We forgot what we're here for. We forgot that we are that line between people in need and things that are within our power to do."

The new leader found issues with management. Despite the fact he's not going to "clean house," there will be personnel changes.

"We're going to get people in the right positions and sometimes if there are people who can't get the job done at the level that it's needed to get done for the people who we're working for, they're not going to be in those positions," Hicks said.

Even with a continued case back log and an incredible workload, there is some good news here.

"I do believe it can be done," Hicks added.

He says it is an ambitious goal, but hopes by this time next year he'll have the agency where it needs to be.

In the meantime, Hicks is still also serving as a top executive to the mayor, keeping his post as senior policy advisor.

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