Jean Turner, longtime Director of Inyo County Health and Human Services, has announced she will be retiring in June after three decades with the department. She has served as HHS Director for the past 14 years.
Turner started her career with Inyo County in 1986 after vacationing in the area and deciding to relocate when the same position she held in another county – child welfare worker – opened up in the Inyo County Health and Human Services Department. She was soon promoted to a supervisor position, and by 1991 was named assistant director of the entire department. The Board of Supervisors appointed Turner as HHS Director in September 2003.
The current Board of Supervisors has enjoyed similar confidence in Turner and her ability to lead the largest and most complex department at the County of Inyo. The Board congratulates Turner on a well-deserved retirement and exceptional career, and also recognizes there will be some big shoes to fill in HHS.
“Jean embodies what a public servant is all about in dedicating her life to helping others improve their own,” Board Chair and Fourth District Supervisor Mark Tillemans said. “A Director who both manages effectively and works in the trenches with staff is someone who is difficult to replace and she will be sorely missed. Her retirement is well earned and we hope she’s able to enjoy it to the fullest.”
The County will undertake a nationwide recruitment for a new Health and Human Services Director beginning later this month.
As HHS Director, Turner currently oversees a staff that hovers at around 135 full- and part-time employees and is responsible for approximately 13 offices, clinics, and senior centers from Tecopa to Bishop, which are operated under the auspices of five separate divisions: Behavioral Health, Public Health and Prevention, Social Services, First 5, and Eastern Sierra Area Agency on Aging.
Through these divisions and numerous local, State and Federal programs, HHS administers a wide array of services throughout the second largest county in California, including but certainly not limited to flu shot clinics and HIV testing, foster care and WIC (Women, Infants and Children), adult and child protective services, senior center lunches and advocacy for the elderly, employment and public assistance, and substance abuse and mental health counseling.
Turner has herself worked in the trenches for almost 31 years to help deliver these services, in addition to overseeing the small army responsible for the social, mental, and physical welfare of thousands of residents – something that has earned her much respect and admiration. She has also earned praise for her ability to navigate the Department through the ever-shifting policies, funding silos, political landscapes, and scientific research that often mean radically adjusting if not altogether changing entire program structures and methods of service delivery.
“There are so many gifts Jean has brought to the County – her knowledge and experience combined with a brainpower matched by few,” said HHS Assistant Director Marilyn Mann. “Jean is a woman of integrity, honesty and intelligence. Jean has this incredible ability to see the big picture issues on a broad scale and be able to connect the dots as it relates to the impact on our local community. She then takes that information and translates it into local policy and direction that not only helps ensure the highest quality of service to the public, but does so in a manner that is efficient and fiscally sound. These are the qualities I so admire about Jean in the work setting. However, what means more to me is the gifts Jean has brought to me personally. She has been a caring and supportive friend to many in our workforce including me. I will truly miss working for and with Jean.”
The same admiration and gratitude holds true for many of the supervisors and staff in HHS, for whom Turner has ample praise herself.
“One of the things that eases my mind about retiring is I’m leaving behind a great team. They’re talented, they’ve got integrity, and an appropriate amount of righteous indignation when someone within the organization is not living up to accepted standards. These are people who take seriously the mission of their jobs – people who are passionate about the services they provide – and they want to get it right.”
Come June, Turner will be turning her focus from public service to her family and friends, playing “tour guide” to several visitors already lined up, spending more time with her son and his family, and visiting her 90-year-old mother on the East Coast.
She has no plans to the leave the area.
“These mountains are what drew me here to start with 31 years ago. As long as my body is able, I’ll be enjoying those mountains as long as I can.”