Ready to retire: Home’s director did what needed done

Since October 1979 Ted Williams has been a part of running the Washington County Home and after 35 years he is stepping down, prompting the search for a replacement.

Darla Miller, the county’s director of Human Resources and Safety, said several people have applied for the administrator’s position, with applications no longer being taken.

“It will typically take about two to three weeks by the time (the search committee) invites applicants back and reevaluates them,” said Miller.

She added that the goal is having some overlap with the new director and Williams.

“It will probably be mid-September before we would have someone,” she said. “They do want to move as quickly as possible and have overlap with Ted before he leaves.”

When Williams started at the home, he was working with his wife, Rosalind. She served as the Matron, he the supervisor, both living in an upstairs room in the home. His wife took over duties of cooking and housekeeping, while he oversaw the farm and everything else. Williams said he also oversees and builds the budget, expenses and payroll.

Rosalind passed away in September 2011 at age 69.

Williams’ salary is $81,224 per year, with $15,024 of that going for a maintenance fee, which acts as rent for living at the home.

The salary of Williams’ replacement will range from $55,000 to $75,000 yearly, according to commissioners.

One of the biggest challenges Williams said he deals with is the perception people, including some residents, have of the home.

“One thing I’ve had to struggle with getting residents to understand-they have a vision of the old county home; it was called a poor house at one time,” he said. “People still have that impression in their mind. We’re in a new building and we have a pretty nice facility. It’s just hard to convince people we’re here for anyone, no matter what your income is.”

The county home is available for those 18 and older who are Washington County residents, or those born in the county, who are able to walk without assistance. The care provided includes Hospice, bariatric care, behavioral care, short-term stays for respite and skin/wound care. The cost is about $85 a day.

The original county home was finished around 1840, with the new building being constructed in 1976, three years before Williams started.

Commissioner David White said the implications of Williams retiring are unknown at present.

“Who knows what it might mean,” he said. “He’s taking with him 35 years of institutional knowledge that’s impossible to replace…I try to think back over 35 years, I was barely out of high school then; it was a long time ago.”

Williams said in the time he’s been at the home he’s kept alive the garden, which is harvested by residents, farm work still goes on, including raising cows and pigs for beef and pork, a pond and picnic shelter have been added by the Army Corps of Engineers, and many rooms have been renovated, including the residential ones and community rooms like the lounges and parlor.

“We started maple syrup gathering,” Williams said. “I’m from up north originally, (there were lots) of sugar maple tree orchards producing sap. When I came down here, and saw we had sugar maple trees, I decided why not. It’s probably 30 years we’ve been doing that.”

Williams said while many of the 90 residential rooms have been remodeled, there’s still some work going on to get the floors and new lights and cabinets put into some. He said there are still areas that work must go on.

“The boilers are original to the building and the biggest problem is their efficiency,” he said. “We were told new boilers would pay for themselves in five to seven years, so we’re working on that project…The roof needs to be painted (as well).”

White added that in addition to institutional knowledge, Williams knows the inner workings of all operations.

“The home has on any given day 70-some odd residents there and complete staff operations, and a 250-acre farm operation in conjunction with all that,” said White. “Ted knows how that works. I don’t know if there’s a written plan…He’s been there that long he doesn’t need to have a plan; he knows how it works, where to go for what resource. That’s going to be pretty much starting from scratch for someone else.”

Nancy Cunningham, secretary/book keeper for the home, said she’s been there for 25 years, working with Williams.

“When I first started here, (it was Williams) and his wife,” she said. “They were a good team, working together. She passed away a couple years ago and he picked up everything she did. I help as much as I can.”

Cunningham said she’s not looking forward to his retirement.

“After 25 years…I know when things need to be done,” she said. “(It will be) tough, after (that long) with the same boss…It’s going to be strange, but I’ll do it. (Williams) has been a good boss.”

While he’s ready to retire, Williams said there are things he’s enjoyed.

“I think what I’ll remember is doing what needed to be done to keep this a nice facility,” Williams said. “I’m proud I got into remodeling the rooms. There’s satisfaction…in keeping things up and keeping things going…I’ve done what I wanted to do; there’s not much about this job I didn’t like.”

Williams added that there are some adjustments coming his way.

“I’ve been reluctant to retire; I’ve always been someone who looks to keep busy,” said Williams. “I call myself a workaholic. That’s going to be a change.”