Relationships key for new Walla Walla DHS head

Daryl Daugs, who has roots in Walla Walla, will take over the county agency later this month.

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There is a new job here for Daryl Daugs, but Walla Walla already feels like home.

Daugs (pronounced "Dowgs") signed a contract Tuesday to become the new director of Walla Walla County's Department of Human Services.

Although his immediate family lives on the west side of the state, his roots are deep in Eastern Washington soil. His mother's family helped settle the area in the 1800s and his father is a Walla Walla High School graduate of 1955, Daugs noted by phone Wednesday.

"Marcus Whitman is actually a relative ... my mom's father was a Free Methodist minister there."

Along with his wife and three children, Daugs has visited this area numerous times throughout the years for personal and professional reasons, he added. "We very much look forward to becoming an integral part of the community."

He is just as eager to start work for Walla Walla County. His job as director of DHS, which pays $78,000 a year, must begin with relationship building, Daugs said. "We need to remember we work for the citizens."

Although his first task is to "find a place to lay my head at the end of the day," he joked, getting to know employees serving under him is a quick second.

It's a job Daugs won't hurry, he explained. "You won't see any drastic changes the day I walk in the door, that's not really my style."

Learning about area stakeholders and needs is, however. DHS must have help with its mission, Daugs said. "The first thing we as a department can do is strengthen relationships with our community partners. County employees can't do it all by themselves."

His resume speaks to experience in collaborative efforts. For the past 15 years, Daugs, 47, has been focusing on advocating for children and families in need, according to the county's press release. He holds a bachelor's degree in organizational management from Northwest College in Kirkland, Wash. His most recent position was as executive director for the Community for Youth in Seattle, where he oversaw operation of a dropout- and violence-prevention program in Seattle public schools.

Daugs also served as lead organizer for the Washington Federation of State Employees for a special two-year child welfare reform legislative project, with responsibilities of drafting legislation and enlisting community partnerships and bipartisan support.

As part of his work in community services, Daugs was director of a statewide social-service program that provided training and support to Washington state's Department of Social and Health Services on foster home recruitment. He monitored subcontracts, developed multimedia training and recruitment programs and served as authorized representative on state and federal initiatives and projects.

He and his wife, Leslie, foster-parented at-risk teens for nine years.

Daugs will fill the position left vacant after the Oct. 1 resignation of former Director Sharon Saffer. Dave Hopper, who has been serving as interim director of the department, will resume the assistant director job.

With Saffer's departure, county commissioners evaluated the needs of the department and its clientele, then updated the job description before opening the application process.

It was decided to focus on management, communication and organizational skills, the news release said. Finalists for the position underwent several comprehensive screenings by panels made up of people in local private and public agencies.

Daugs considers his new job to be a public service, he said. Delivering human services in rural areas is often "very difficult," and agencies can get spread too thin. Also, while Walla Walla is the county seat, it is important to remember DHS serves the entire county, he added. "Human services needs to be a collaborative effort with multiple partners in the community."

Daugs will step into his job March 15. His wife and one son still at home will follow in another six months or so, which may be the hardest part of the transition, he said.

He is a proud husband and dad, and perhaps prouder grandfather to 14-month-old Kennedy Scott. "He is the best looking grandson in the history of the world, is extremely intelligent and is way above average in every aspect of life," Daugs expounded.

His wife works for the Bremerton School District. Leslie has been an avid soccer player all of her life and plays on three teams a week, Daryl added. His son, Daryl Daugs III -- "Tripper" -- is 16 and a high school sophomore crazy about wrestling. "He wrestled varsity this year and made it as far as sub-regionals."

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.

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