STILL ENJOYING THE JOURNEY
Though an era in county services may be ending, there is another hard on its heels. And David Still couldn't be happier about that. He has purposely spent the past year working himself out of a job.
After 31 years driving Union County's mental and public health programs, the Center for Human Development's chief executive officer and very public face Â— retires today.
Confident about the competency of the management team he leaves behind the wheel, a relaxed Still says he won't be making any Monday-morning, arm-chair-quarterbacking, checking-in-to-see-what's-happening phone calls.
"For so many years, CHD has been my life. But I'm leaving it in good hands," he says firmly. "There is depth of experience in this staff. We've been working together Â— towards this change Â— for a long time."
He has high praise for an ensemble he hand picked and watched grow Â—three in particular are 18-year veteran Dwight Dill, CHD's mental health director; public health director Lisa Ladendorff, who Still brought on board 12 or 13 years ago as a public health nurse through her practicum with OHSU; and low-profile but indispensable systems administrator Steve Ryman, who has journeyed with Still from the beginning.
In the early 1970s, David and Pam Still decided to leave Rock Springs, Wyo., which had grown from a comfortable 12,000 residents to an unacceptable 26,000.
"Way too big to raise a family," Still says.
He and Pam had both come from small, rural towns and were looking for more of the same. Someone suggested they check out La Grande, so they did. And they stayed.
Still began working for the county's mental health program in 1974 from the cramped and sweaty quarters of a "dungeon" located in the bowels of the old courthouse Â— now a parking lot.
During the mid-1980s, in their wisdom, Still says, county commissioners merged public and mental health services with veterans services into a "one- stop shop" known as the Center for Human Development. The St. Joseph Hospital complex was purchased to house the combined agencies.
Still clearly remembers the experience of walking into the current building once they knew it was to be their new home. The entire staff was in awe of such spaciousness.
"We looked at each other and said, Â‘How are we ever gonna fill this up?'
But, of course, the program did grow into its new space. So much so, Still now sees the possibility of new CHD facilities in the future, with a need for community- based psychiatric services as the
As more state hospitals are downsized, Still says the push will be for community-based psychiatric care similar to that which brought developmentally disabled back home to their communities several years ago. That move sparked programs like New Day Enterprises Inc. a win-win for the community and the developmentally disabled. Still says it will take community involvement, support and creativity to make local psychiatric programs just as successful.
Other challenges ahead include expansion of the public health department to include environmental health services, development of a bioterrorism response plan and a community health assessment.
WIth these challenges and more on the table, Still is confident CHD's management team is prepared to meet them all. He is not tempted to stay behind, but rather is happy to have accomplished his part in building a firm foundation for the next era of community services from CHD.
So, does that mean he has short-timer's disease?
"Definitely!" Still laughs, that trademark twinkle sparkling in his eyes.
Last fall, he and Pam bought a place in Cove where there are plenty of little projects for him to do this spring and summer.
But what he is really looking forward to are some quiet mornings filled with coffee, online newspaper reads and long walks. Sprinkle in a little gardening here, some fishing and hunting there, and David Still has much to look forward to.
With Pam still working, will he have dinner ready when she gets home from work each night?
"Well, I do have my own best interests at heart," he laughs, eyes twinkling.
Seriously, what does Pam think about his retirement?
"She's excited," he says. For one thing, the couple is expecting their first grandchild in May, so his retirement is well timed.
"I plan to take some time enjoying my grandchild," he says with a smile as wide as the future.
Still's retirement from CHD does not necessarily mean a retirement from public service, however. Albeit there are plenty of community projects that would welcome Still's expertise and energy, he now has the luxury of time to choose where and how he wants to stay involved.
"There are a lot of good and worthwhile projects. Habitat for Humanity, for example, and there are others," he says.
Still says he is not leaving behind any regrets. The past 31 years have been a process Â— a journey Â— in a business, he says is "too serious to be taken too seriously."
If he has left any legacy behind him, he hopes it is philosophical in nature.
"I have periodically asked myself these questions over the years: Â‘Would I want my wife Â— my daughter Â— my family Â— to be treated here?' and Â‘Would I want to work with me?' If I can answer Â‘Yes' to both those questions, the rest is details."