Former Somerset County Commissioner James T. Yoder said that he is doing well in his first month heading the county Area Agency on Aging.
Last month Yoder resigned as commissioner and was named the head of the agency after two other candidates turned the position down.
“Pennsylvania is the third largest growing population of aging in the nation,” he said. “Our aging population is doing nothing but growing. I really think this place is going to play a much more vital role in the future than it has in the past.”
Yoder said that his work as a commissioner helped him prepare for the role. “From working with aging for the past 2 1/2 years I knew quite a bit of the workings of the place,” he said. “What I am really getting into now is the nuts and bolts of the different programs, learning acronyms. Acronyms are probably my biggest challenge.”
Yoder, who took a nearly $20,000 pay cut to take the job, said that a requirement of his hiring was to further his education. His new salary is $52,500. He is taking a leadership course. He is partnered with a mentor, Mark Shea, director of the York County aging office.
He is also completing classes through Boston University. He said he will be taking fundamentals of gerontology, a guide to aging and disability networks, aging and the community and core issues in aging and disabilities.
“Every day I am learning,” he said.
Yoder said one of his goals is to boost morale. He is also looking into expanding some of the programs offered by the agency, however, he said it is too early in the process to discuss specifics. He wants to work on long-term budgeting. He said his work on the county budget will help him with long-term planning at the agency. He would also like to expand storage areas and the kitchen.
“I would like to purchase property to maybe expand the senior center to possibly move it,” he said.
The Somerset Senior Center is in the lower level of the Area Agency on Aging building.
The agency operates on about a $5 million yearly budget, with the majority of the funding coming from the Pennsylvania Lottery. About $38,000 comes from the county, Yoder said. In his role he manages around 73 employees. There are seven senior centers in Somerset County.
Yoder said he is also working to strengthen the agency’s relationships with other organizations through partnerships with groups such as the United Way.