Our View: Time will tell if new DHS director is worth the money

Rest easy Arkansans, particularly the well over 200,000 of you poor folks dependent upon the being taken care of by the 7,000 workers for the $8.3 billion dysfunctional state Department of Human Services, better known as no other than the DHS. We’re sure they would certainly like to now know all their frustrations with the largest agency in the state, beset by inept leadership and bureaucracy, may be coming to an end now that its new director is coming on board with a whopping annual salary of $280,000. And, we suspect, that doesn’t include all the perks and benefits making Cindy Gillespie one of the highest paid employees in the state. We’re told by Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s people that Gillespie is an architect of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s health care expansion and, up to now, a principal in the Washington, D.C. office of the Denton law fire, serving as leader of its Health policy and Health Insurance Exchange Teams. While this salary may come as a shock to many struggling Arkansans, let us point out that it still has to gain the approval of lawmakers in that it exceeds the maximum authorized among for this department director’s job which is $162,647 a year, an amount we believe was being paid to departing DHS Director John Selig. Not too shabby of a paycheck we do have to say, but Gillespie’s well over a quarter-of-a-million-dollar-a-year falls shy of what numerous workers at the state’s higher-education institutions make, including football and basketball coaches, chancellors and presidents. We’re told the highest-paid state employee is University of Arkansas’ head football coach, Bret Bielema, whose compensation package is a startling $4 MILLION a year. The governor’s explanation to the higher salary is that it is necessary in order to attract what he described as the best candidate to manage state government’s largest agency. Hutchinson, in a written statement, said Gillespie has nationally recognized expertise in the reform of Medicaid and she has extensive experience in managing complex programs.” Well, she’ll certainly be testing out all that experience because she will be taking over at a time when there are definitely complex issues and challenges. We’re sure Gillespie is fully aware of the millions of wasted tax dollars DHS spent trying to implement the state’s version of Obamacare as well as the highly publicized problems within the Children and Family Services Division. Its long time Director Cecile Blucker is stepping down at the end of March due to serious issues that has drawn criticism from lawmakers and those who believe the division is a bureaucratic nightmare. Gillespie will not only be taking on those serious issue but also be a key player in Hutchinson’s plans to overhaul the state’s private option where almost 250,000 Arkansans had been approved for free or subsidized health care as of Nov. 30 of last year. Oh, and there are still thousands of other Arkansans who have been approved to take full advantage of these tax-supported subsidies but have not yet completed enrollment. Let us dare say, if Gillespie is everything we’ve been told she is and is good enough to straighten this agency out, then maybe she is worth the $280,000 a year we will be paying her with our hard-earned tax dollars.

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