This year’s United Way of Lowndes County pacesetters may want to get a running start before trying to keep up with their new leader.
Patricia Brock, 54, was named executive director of the organization on Monday, replacing Jan Ballard, who left in February to accept a position as school board clerk for the Columbus Municipal School District. Brock will earn $47,000 per year.
The Ohio native moved to Columbus in 1996 after retiring from a 15-year career as a cryptologic linguist for the United States Air Force. Her job required her to learn Russian, along with several semesters of Japanese and German, so she could collect and analyze voice communications for the military.
Her work ethic, along with her attention to detail, made her a standout among the other 55 applicants for the United Way position, board president Marilyn Agnew said Wednesday.
The board spent three months interviewing candidates, and they were immediately impressed with Brock’s take-charge style. They were committed to finding the right person to fill Ballard’s shoes, but they were growing weary of the lengthy process, Agnew said.
They called Brock into the office expecting to question her but were surprised to find that she had already done her homework and was prepared not only to answer basic interview questions but also to propose ways to cut expenses and increase fundraising.
“We really wanted to make sure we had not just a warm body but the right person, and we certainly think we have found the right person in Patricia,” Agnew said. “She brings a lot to the table. She’s a self-starter, very energetic and motivated, and she has a desire to work to help people.”
Brock took command of her post on Tuesday, making a quick but thorough reconnaissance of her new office. By that afternoon, she was immersed in stacks of reading materials she found buried in file cabinets and drawers.
“Bless Jan Ballard, she’s an amazing person,” Brock said Wednesday. “She left a binder here with all kinds of information that I need to cram into my head quickly.”
She spent much of her second day on the job doing a little administrative housekeeping.
She called her executive committee and board members, introducing herself and updating contact information. She examined the organization’s website, taking notes and calling the webmaster about corrections and other changes.
She also updated her online LinkedIn profile, proudly announcing her new position.
Most recently, she worked as the head administrator of Homeplace of Columbus, an assisted living facility, where she oversaw the staff and handled payroll, accounts payable and receivable, invoicing, budget management, marketing and public relations.
Other job experience includes eight and a half years at Mississippi University for Women, where she worked as coordinator of technology-based instruction and director of continuing education and long-distance learning. She also worked as manager of continuing education at Mississippi State University and enjoyed a three-month stint as project manager at MUW’s Center for Creative Learning.
“I am kind of a workaholic,” Brock admitted. “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
Some of her most pressing duties in the upcoming weeks include meeting the leaders of the 18 agencies that receive funding from the United Way of Lowndes County and forging strong community relations, learning how she can best help those in need.
“I’m very excited to be in this position, and I feel very blessed,” Brock said. “I’m very energetic, very enthusiastic. I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone and doing my best.”
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.