Debbie Hatt has been working out of different offices at the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments for about 24 years. A few weeks ago, she moved into a nice one that is right beside the board room. It's the executive director's office.
She now has the responsibility of overseeing programs that affect the four counties and 19 cities of the region, programs that range from food banks, weatherization and aging services to support for community and economic development and transportation. Hatt was the association's business manager before the board chose her for the top spot. In that previous job, a position like a corporate chief financial officer, she says she became familiar with all those operations as well as the various sources of funding.
She says it is those diverse functions that have kept her coming back to work every day for more than two decades. "The services we provide make you feel like you've accomplished something," she explains. "Maybe it's getting a new food bank, or getting housing rehabbed, or seeing what we have done with aging services."
There's a big challenge ahead in coping with funding cuts for those services. The HEAT program, which helps low-income people with home heating expenses, is already facing reductions because of federal spending cutbacks. Hatt says the association will be exploring ways to keep things going. One thing she intends to do is reach out to other agencies in and out of the region to share ideas.
She also wants to hear more suggestions from the public as to what might be desirable or possible on a regional basis.
Overall, she's not looking for any major changes in operations.
The association has a relatively small staff, given that it is spread out over some 19,000 square miles. In all there are about 60 workers, most of who are part-time, she says.