Director of social services named for Anne Arundel

Baltimore native held deputy post in Alaska

February 13, 2005|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

After a seven-month search, Anne Arundel County will have a new director of social services beginning next month, state and county officials announced Friday.

Marcia Kennai, 59, comes to the county from Alaska, where she has served for 18 months as deputy commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services.

The Baltimore native previously worked as director of protective services for the Children, Youth and Families Department in New Mexico and in Maryland for the nonprofit Good Shepherd Center and the state's Family to Family Foster Care Initiative.

In Alaska, Kennai provided services by plane to communities where the only roads are frozen rivers.

"If you can do this work in Alaska," she said, "you can do it almost anywhere."

State Human Resources Secretary Christopher J. McCabe and Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens jointly appointed Kennai.

She will lead a department of 410 with a $170 million annual budget. The department deals with issues relating to welfare, child abuse, homelessness and parenting. Kennai will make an annual salary of $120,000.

"Ms. Kennai brings a wealth of experience to this position," McCabe said in a statement. "As we move forward with our statewide initiative of putting children first, her vast experience and expertise in this profession will be a tremendous asset."

Kennai said she hadn't had a chance to review the county's department or the needs of the population. "But," she said, "healthy families and safe children are something I believe is important everywhere."

She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park and earned a master's degree in social work from the University of Maryland School of Social Work. She took her first job as a state case worker in Baltimore in 1967.

Kennai fills a post that was vacated last summer when Edward Bloom retired after 24 years as director. Kerry Ahearn-Brown has served as interim director.

The process apparently avoided some of the controversy that has followed selections in Baltimore - where Mayor Martin O'Malley battled in court for the right to pick a new DSS chief - and Howard County, where County Executive James N. Robey was angered last summer by McCabe's choice of an interim DSS director. McCabe and Robey later came together last month to pick a veteran Prince George's County official for the permanent job.

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