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JFS director honored by selection



Published: Fri, July 1, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Zachariah, who starts his job Tuesday, will oversee a staff of more than 300.

YOUNGSTOWN -- John K. Zachariah says he's anxious to bring his more than 20 years' experience in public service to Mahoning County's Department of Job and Family Services.

"I'm honored and humbled by the experience" of being selected as director, Zachariah said when introduced at the county commissioners' meeting Thursday. "I'm impressed with the commissioners and their passion for helping people in need. I am excited to start the job next week."

Zachariah, 59, who begins his job Tuesday, will be paid $79,000 to head a department with a total operating budget of $370 million, which includes the JFS food stamp, child care and Medicaid programs.

He will help oversee a staff of more than 300, which consists of the Department of Human Services and the Child Support Enforcement Agency. The JFS is located in the McGuffey Plaza, North Garland Avenue, on the city's East Side.

He replaces Delores Crawford, who retired as director in April. Crawford made $88,504.

Cream of the crop

Anthony Traficanti, chairman of the commissioners, said Zachariah has a big task ahead of him, but told him "you have the full the support of the board."

Commissioner John A. McNally IV thanked all who applied for the job -- between 135 and 150 people -- and the 15 to 20 people who came in for interviews.

McNally said the board called back four to six people for second interviews before making the decision to hire Zachariah.

"All of those we interviewed had good ideas for improving the agency, but we have confidence in Mr. Zachariah that he will be a very good leader," McNally said.

James Petraglia, the county's human resources director, said the extensive and thorough search for a new director included putting the position on the job search Web site Monster.com as well as putting advertisements in papers from Cleveland to Pittsburgh.

"There was a one-month interview process, and several were highly qualified, but I believe we found the most qualified with John Zachariah," Petraglia said. "He came in with a plan to take the department in a new direction."

Developing a vision

Zachariah, who is married and has a teenage son, said what is critical with any operation is for him to get the commissioners' vision as well as the vision of other key county officials and JFS staff on the services that can be offered at the agency.

"Once we formulate those ideas, we can develop an action plan with the JFS staff and public officials to wisely use the federal and state money allocated to us," Zachariah said.

The bulk of JFS funding comes from the federal government and is passed through to the states, which in turn passes the money to county JFS departments.

Traficanti said he is comfortable with selecting Zachariah, a native of India, to handle the job.

Zachariah comes to the county after serving a year as director of Franklin County's JFS. Petraglia said administrative changes in Franklin County politics resulted in several fiduciary employees like Zachariah being asked to resign.

Qualifications

Zachariah's r & eacute;sum & eacute; says that in his year as Franklin County JFS director, he oversaw the upgrade of information technology to improve customer service, implemented community partnerships and comprehensive needs assessment in the department, and introduced a need-based staff-development plan.

He has held the position of county administrator of Geauga County. He also has served as Cuyahoga County juvenile court administrator, regional administrator of the American Correctional Association in Maryland, and worked as a family therapist and youth counselor.

Zachariah earned a master's degree from Colgate Rochester, Rochester, N.Y., and has two bachelor's degrees from institutions in India. He also received clinical training at Central Islip Psychiatric Center in New York and the Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.




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