County Manager Column from Aug. 18, 2020

This column was originally published as a "From the County Manager" column on our employee intranet

Service Centers launch a new phase of service delivery during COVID-19 and beyond

Yesterday was an exciting day for our organization – one that I’ve been looking forward to for some time. Our five newly redesigned Service Centers officially opened their doors to our residents, bringing to life a concept rooted in our mission, vision and goals that was in development prior to COVID-19.

I had an opportunity to visit all five of the redesigned sites yesterday, and I appreciate all the staff who took time to share their thoughts with me as I walked around each location. At three of the five sites I showed up alone and unannounced, just wanting to sit with and listen to those who have been doing the work to further bring our residents-first perspective to life. Through those conversations and my observations, I saw optimism. A belief in what we can achieve in better service to our community. A recognition that there are barriers we must address, but that no barrier is insurmountable. And, most importantly, a recognition that the steps we are taking are steps that we must take. Thanks to every navigator, financial assistance worker, workforce staffer and supervisor who is at the vanguard of this important work.

The most critical aspect of the redesigned Service Centers are our new navigators – county employees who provide comprehensive in-person assistance and can connect residents to programs across our organization, including Social Services, Financial Assistance Services, Workforce Solutions and Property Tax Services. These navigators will help remove barriers for residents and break down the complexity of accessing Ramsey County services. A significant amount of feedback shaped the development of the new navigator positions. The process involved community voices, the board of commissioners and county leaders at all levels across the organization. In this week’s video, I’m joined by Melinda Donaway, interim manager of the navigator program, to take you on-site to the downtown Saint Paul location for a Service Center introduction and tour.

Service Centers also offer computer workstations available by reservation, and three locations feature our new Community Career Labs, providing an important link to technology resources for residents without access to home computers and internet.

This milestone would not be possible without the work of several employees. I’d like to extend a huge thank you to Melinda and the incredible team of new navigators for stepping up and saying “yes” to this opportunity to lead change in how we approach service delivery. I’m also grateful to the IMT planning team (especially Maggie Dreon), Property Management, Information Services, Communications & Public Relations and all the department partners who helped prepare for this launch.

If you get a call from a navigator who is assisting a resident in the coming weeks, please do your best to help them provide positive, helpful customer service. Both the Service Centers and the navigator role are intended to last beyond the pandemic and evolve with our services. Look for future updates as we further grow into this “One Door” concept to better meet the needs of our residents.