Marcum narrowly appointed DSS commissioner

Marcum narrowly appointed DSS commissioner
Published: Aug. 2, 2023 at 5:47 AM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Tuesday night Jefferson County legislators appointed Karen Marcum as the next Department of Social Services commissioner, replacing Teresa Gaffney, who is retiring.

“There are some things that we need to work on, but you know I’m ready to jump in, I’m focused, and I think given my years at DSS,” Marcum told lawmakers. “I’m ready to move forward.”

After the recent investigation into DSS, Marcum says staff need to execute a plan of action.

“I think now is the time to have further conversation with them, on this is the direction we were thinking, what are your thoughts, these were our ideas and action steps, what are your thoughts,” Marcum said. “They are the ones out there doing the hard work.”

Marcum’s appointment narrowly passed in an 8 to 7 vote.

District 15 Legislator Anthony Doldo was one of the “no” votes. He says there needs to be change after recent issues in the department.

“We just can’t pick somebody who is the best of the worst,” Doldo said. “I think that we really need to look at our hiring practices, our advertising practices, change needs to happen there, it really does.”

Doldo says for several years there has been a pattern of issues at DSS, with several complaints made to the board.

“We have to feel comfortable as legislators, to know that there is in their best interest of what they’re doing to help our constituents and their clients,” he said.

Meanwhile, Marcum says she understands it is not an easy job, but she believes she’s the right person for it. She says keeping staff morale high is hard.

“In a social services agency, that is the biggest challenge of all, and the only way to show as a leader is to actually get in the role and do it,” she said.

Doldo says some legislators want to form a committee to further review DSS and hold it accountable.

Outgoing commissioner Teresa Gaffney’s last day is August 18.