Dear Friends and Colleagues:
I write you with bittersweet news. After two amazing years of helping guide the National Council on Disability (NCD), I have made the difficult decision to step down as the agency’s Executive Director to pursue another life adventure. My last day will be Friday, February 8. It has been my honor to work with NCD Chairman Jonathan Young. His vision for the Council captivated me and drew me away from the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions after seven years to help shape the latest chapter in NCD’s history. I have been extremely fortunate to work with such a dynamic leader at the helm of an immensely talented group of Council Members and staff.
It has been my privilege to work with and learn from an outstanding group of Presidentially-appointed Council members, whose depth of policy knowledge continually impresses and is a credit to the disability community. I am proud of the many opportunities I’ve had over the last two years to interact with and learn from this diverse group of people representing such rich perspectives on disability.
I will also sincerely miss the NCD staff who are some of the hardest-working and dedicated people I know. They truly are the glue that holds the Council’s work together, and I will deeply miss the day-to-day interactions with such a fantastic, intelligent, and dedicated group of people.
In recent days, I’ve reflected on my time at the agency and its many accomplishments. During my tenure, NCD streamlined numerous internal processes to save taxpayers’ money and enhance agency operations. This included updates to and automation of the NCD’s financial management systems as well as enhancements to the agency’s performance management system. While these activities may not appear noteworthy, improving internal processes were critically important as it allowed us to more effectively focus on the true policy mission of the agency – to be a trusted advisor to the President, Congress, and other federal, state, local, and tribal entities – without becoming distracted or bogged down by the inner workings of a federal agency.
In addition to necessary internal improvements, I am proud to have been at NCD during the time we addressed several important policy areas that were identified by stakeholders as crucial areas in need of NCD’s guidance. NCD engaged with stakeholders across the country to determine agency priorities. NCD engaged with stakeholders across the country to determine priorities. We hosted meetings in Portland, Oregon; Los Angeles, California; Orlando, Florida; and New York City, NY to learn from stakeholders about policy priorities and chart our agency’s path forward. After listening to concerns of the community, NCD took action by addressing a number of the policy issues highlighted as key concerns.
One of those concerns was subminimum wage. NCD examined the topic by taking a holistic approach, with the aim of developing methods of improving access to competitive, integrated employment and decreasing and ultimately ending the practice of paying subminimum wages through the 14(c) program by providing workable solutions to wage disparity by changing existing business models.
NCD also broke new ground by issuing a first of its kind report, infused with real life stories of parents with disabilities, providing a comprehensive overview of factors that support and impede Americans with all disabilities from exercising their fundamental right to begin and maintain families. We received unprecedented media attention with the report and advanced the policy discussion into more mainstream venues than we as a community typically experience.
We are also nearing completion on work related to Medicaid Managed Care, Self-Direction, and Block Granting, as well as being in the midst of a project focused on reforming Social Security’s Disability Benefits System. NCD has had major accomplishments and impact for such a small agency in such a short period of time, and yet these projects represent just a small portion of the work NCD has been engaged with over the past two years. I am extremely proud of what we have been able to achieve.
It was a difficult decision for me to move on from NCD to pursue another opportunity, particularly against the backdrop of such accomplishments. However, on February 11, I will come full circle, in a matter of speaking, to the roots of where my career in the disability community began, and continue my journey at the Administration on Community Living (ACL) and specifically with the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Being a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Waisman Center University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and having worked with what was then called the Wisconsin Developmental Disabilities Council and Wisconsin Coalition for Advocacy (Protection and Advocacy Agency), and having also worked at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities -- all part of the AIDD’s network – this opportunity is a homecoming of sorts for me. I will assist in managing a work portfolio that includes the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, Protection and Advocacy Agencies, and Developmental Councils, as well as joining the leadership team at ACL.
While I will miss my time at this fine agency and working with such an amazing Council and staff on important cross-disability issues, I look forward to working with many of the same stakeholders in my new capacity at ACL, as we continue to advance disability rights together.