Experience is replacing experience at the Johnston County Department of Social Services.
Tina Corbett will start Jan. 1 as the agency’s director, replacing Earl Marett, who is retiring after 25 years on the job.
Corbett, 46, started at the department when she was just 17 years old. She began as an intern and was hired after graduating from Smithfield-Selma High School. Over time, she worked her way up the ladder until becoming deputy director in 2010.
And now, County Commissioners have chosen her to lead the department.
“Our agency is here to serve and support the citizens that are in need, and I have a long history of being a part of that,” Corbett said. “And I’m looking forward to moving into this role and having an even bigger part of making sure that that happens.”
For now, Corbett isn’t planning any changes. She first wants to guide the agency through all the major changes coming from the state and federal governments.
Many of those changes have to do with technology, as agencies across the state learn to use NC Fast and NC Tracks. NC Fast is a new electronic-records system that puts all records and applications in one place for county departments of social services. NC Tracks is the new Medicaid payment system that has been plagued with problems since its launch over the summer.
On top of that, the new health-care law is creating many changes for social service agencies, Corbett said. “They’re huge things to incorporate into our workload that’s already really, really heavy,” she said.
Corbett said her long-term goal is to constantly look for ways to improve the agency to better serve the citizens of Johnston County. The agency has only so much room to act independently; many programs are mandates from the state and federal government. That means the department has only so much leeway to customize programs, Corbett said. And other programs are out of the department’s control, such as a possible Medicaid expansion.
Two home-grown programs Corbett will continue to support are the Adolescent Parenting Program, which helps teen parents stay in school while rearing their kids, and Links, which helps kids in the foster system transition into adulthood.
In her former role as deputy director, Corbett focused on the nuts and bolts of the agency, and the department’s managers would report directly to her. Now she will be taking on a role that both decides the overall direction of the agency and as acts as an advocate for its programs. Being more outgoing will be a challenge, she said, but one she’s confident she will meet.
Marett, the longtime director, said he is happy that Corbett is replacing him. “I think she will be perfect for the job, and I’m happy that she got it,” he said. “She’s been here for a lot of years. She has a tremendous work ethic, tremendous organizational skills and tremendous people skills.”
Corbett is a Johnston County native who has lived in the Selma area her whole life. While working at the Department of Social Services, she earned an associate’s degree from Johnston Community College in 2001 and a bachelor’s degree in management and organizational development from Mount Olive College in 2007.
Corbett’s husband works in agri-supply, and the couple has two children, a daughter, 24, and a son, 19.
Corbett’s family was involved in sports for years; both the children were avid players. In her little free time, Corbett has served the N.C. Social Services Association on the local and state levels.