The director of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services' area office in Osawatomie has been chosen to lead the seven-county SRS office being formed in Lawrence.
James E. Wann, a 20-year SRS employee, will assume his duties as area director in Lawrence Oct. 18. The Lawrence area office will have responsibility for SRS services in Brown, Doniphan, Jackson, Jefferson, Atchison, Douglas and Franklin counties.
Wann's appointment was announced Tuesday by Dennis Taylor, acting secretary of SRS.
Wann, 55, who has been area director in Osawatomie about three years, also was director of the Kansas City, Kan., SRS office for 17 years. He said that of the two area offices he has directed, his new job in Lawrence will be more like his experience in Kansas City. "It's more of a metropolitan area," he said.
WANN SAID his first duties as new director will be to name top administrators in the new area office. Those people will include directors of social services, income maintenance and administrative services.
Taylor said Wann's experience was a factor in his selection. "His experience and background will be valuable assets in creating the new area office," he said.
Jim Baze, section chief in the Douglas County SRS office, said he and other SRS staff in Lawrence were relieved that the process of reorganization had begun. He also said Wann's experience shows him to be a competent administrator.
Baze added that with the appointment, SRS can begin to "deal with many issues that have come up" since the reorganization was announced.
TAYLOR SAID in August that SRS area offices in Hiawatha and Osawatomie would be merged under a single Lawrence office. Similarly, area offices in Chanute, Pittsburg and Parsons will merge into one area office in Chanute.
"The purpose (of the reorganization) is to reduce the total number of administrative staff so that administrators can assume more positions on the line," Wann said. "There will be more people working directly with clients."
Wann indicated SRS caseworkers have been carrying too large a burden.
"Our caseloads continue to rise," he said, adding that moving administrative staff to the field is one way to alleviate that burden.
WANN SAID the decision to create an area office in Lawrence is a compliment to the city. He said he expects that eventually 100 SRS workers will be assigned to the area office.
"Eventually, we'll be adding a child support enforcement unit and even KanWork," he said of the program aimed at providing job training for people on welfare. "Because of financial conditions, that has not opened up yet."
SRS is searching for a building with 20,000 to 25,000 square feet for the new area office. The current SRS office at 619 East 8th is about 11,000 square feet.
Although he said he still has some work to finish in Osawatamie, Wann said he is anxious to get moving with the new area office.
"There's a lot of questions that need to be answered," he said. "I'm anxious to meet the staff in Lawrence and get started."