Since becoming executive director of Carroll County's Human Services Programs, Stephen Mood has often been introduced as "the new Sylvia."
Most 57-year-old men would find that hard to take. But Mood doesn't mind the comparison to Sylvia Canon, the private nonprofit organization's founder and its director for 14 years.
"Sylvia was a special leader and a great member of the community," said Mood, whose social work career spans more than 30 years. "I know it's a big spot to fill. I'm just working to get my feet on the ground. I'm not running yet."
Canon said she felt as if she was leaving part of her family when she retired last month from Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc., which provides money, goods, services and other necessities to the county's needy. She said she has every confidence in her successor.
"Steve is so experienced that I feel so comfortable turning my precious baby over to him," she said at her retirement party.
He has been director of the Department of Social Services in Caroline and Frederick counties and most recently served as deputy director of program evaluation and innovation for Anne Arundel County's Social Services Department, where he had a staff of 550.
His new job marks the first time in 34 years that he is not a state employee.
"The job here is challenging as well as exciting, with more flexibility and opportunity to be creative and innovative," he said. "There is criteria on who we serve, but there are no limits on the degree of service."
From his Westminster office, Mood supervises a staff of about 80, who helped 12,000 people meet their housing, food, clothing and other needs last year.
"I have a staff who all want to do the best they can for the folks who come through the door," he said.
Community support was an incentive that drew him to Carroll County, he said.
"HSP is viewed by the community in the best possible light," said Mood. "It has developed programs and become part of the community and is certainly supported by the community."
HSP oversees five homeless shelters, emergency and energy assistance programs, Carroll County Family Shelter, Family Links, Neighbors in Need and about 20 other programs. Many of its clients are the working poor, who represent "a need that does not go away," said Mood.
"Inevitably, all of us in our lives have situations where we have to rely on family or friends," he said. "We serve those who don't have either."
He said he has "always been a helper." In his childhood, he endured long periods of hospitalization while doctors tried to correct a problem with his right leg. To pass the time, he would entertain the children who could not get out of bed.
"That kind of experience makes you understand how fortunate you are," he said. "No matter how bad off you think you are, all you have to do is look around and you will see lots of people whose needs are greater."
He earned a bachelor's degree in personnel management and sociology from University of Maryland, College Park and a master's degree in social work from Howard University.
As an administrator, he said he misses the hands-on aspect of social services, working one-on-one with clients.
"Now I am looking at the whole system, and what I can do at my level helps in a much broader way. It helps entire communities," he said.
One of Carroll's most pressing problems - and the one Mood said he hopes to tackle first - is the county's lack of affordable housing. Several recent federal housing grants, totaling more than $600,000, will help ease the housing shortage for the working poor, he said.