Replacing The Irreplaceable Terry Giegengack

Normally, when a Westport town department — say, Human Services — replaces an employee who’s leaving — say, Terry Giegengack — the process is simple.

The director posts the position. She includes the job description. Candidates apply, and the best person is chosen.

Replacing Terry will be a bit tougher than that.

In 8 years as assistant director, she’s done so much — and added so many responsibilities, most on her own initiative — that director Barbara Butler first must review and revise the job description.

That’s the easy part. Replacing Terry — who leaves Thursday, to become Fairfield’s director of social services — will be far more difficult.

Terry Giegengack at work...

Terry Giegengack at work…

She’s been a mainstay of Westport’s Human Services Department for 23 years. Actually longer, if you count the years before her maternity leave.

Terry handles client services. She oversees all social workers, and client programs. Many of those programs she developed herself, or brought to Westport.

Take tax preparation assistance for low- and moderate-income people. Working with AARP, Terry gets over $200,000 a year in refunds. That’s money Westporters are entitled to — and need — but would otherwise not receive.

Or Jump Start. An education program for lower-income clients (though open to all), it helps parents manage finances, children, households and more.

Terry brought the Career Coach — a bus with nearly a dozen workstations, where unemployed or underemployed people can work with individual “coaches” to learn Excel, resume-writing and other job skills — to Westport every month.

Recently, she wrote a $150,000 grant for Child First, an early intervention/ school readiness program.

Terry also excels at one-on-one problem-solving.

...and working with a client.

…and working with a client.

“There’s no one better at casework,” praises Barbara, her boss. “She is so wonderful at counseling individuals.

“She meets people where they are, and helps them move on to independence and self-sufficiency, so they don’t need us.”

Terry tackles the most difficult cases. They may be multi-generational, with complicated issues involving childcare, eldercare and financial problems. She solves them all, with creativity and compassion.

Terry supervises 5 case workers. She also deals with youth workers in areas like bullying and eating disorders, and coordinates programs and projects with other town departments.

Oh, yeah. She’s the municipal agent for people with disabilities, too.

Finding someone to do all that — and do it with Terry’s quiet competence and passion — is Barbara Butler’s big task.

“She’s a unique combination of talents and skills,” Barbara says. “She’s an incredible worker, with high energy. On top of all that, she is a lovely person.

“Terry will not be easy to replace.”

14 responses to “Replacing The Irreplaceable Terry Giegengack

  1. Instead of selecting one successor to Terry, another approach might be to
    distribute her work among the outstanding professionals who have already
    served the Department for many years and who know their jobs intimately.
    In other words, Barbara and Terry already have a succession plan thanks
    to wise and generous teamwork.

    • Dear Anonymous, Can’t you let the woman have an article about her, just be about her?

  2. intuitiveguest

    Sorry to learn that Terry is leaving Westport. Fairfield is fortunate that she will bring her skills and compassion to their Human Services department. She will certainly be missed.

  3. Terry was also one of many unsung heroes at the recent Sandy & the year before Irene disaster shelters at Long Lots School. Few know that she racked up an average of two hours of sleep per night, yet was effective in answering questions of all residents and working on long term plans for those who needed it..

    Westport is fortunate to have a very solid team in place, Terry’s concern and compassion will be very hard to replicate

  4. I know her skill and kindness will be fondly remembered by many here in town. Lucky Fairfield!

  5. In assisting mt clients, have worked with Terri over the past 23 years and found her to be personable, qualified and enthusiastic about solving the problems. Good Luck to her in her new career.

  6. GREMAN- She has been with Westport over 20+ years and has been a gem of an employee. Why are we letting her go? Is it more dollars or just a change in positions? I read she is going from Human Services in Westport to Social Services in Fairfield, is this change less or more of a position change?

  7. Dear Anonymous, The adult response from you would be to step forward..with your name and offer a genuine apology to the future Director of Fairfiel Social Services. My understaning of a tribute is that it is to pay respect and gratitude for a job wll done to an individual. Sheila Russo LCSW

  8. Most people have know idea how much great work our Human Services Department handles. They do a great job with very limited resources. Terry, you will be missed.

  9. Dear Paula Flynn: With all due respect, I think you missed the point of
    my comment on a strategy to “replace” Terry in the Department of Human
    Services. One of the signs of a great leader is her ability to empower those
    with whom she works rather than trying to be a “one woman show.” Terry
    was a collaborative professional as is Barbara Butler and the very success
    of our DHS’s work is due to a team approach.

  10. To “Anonymous” of February 27, and with all respect, Terry was due for
    career advancement after over 25 years with the DHS. I can only assume
    it was a position improvement and who could argue it was not richly
    deserved? After all, why shouldn’t Westport share our own excellence?

  11. She was GREAT in repsonding to the needs of my ailing father. One of the bright spots- if there was any- of a true ordeal.

  12. I agree with Mike Laux and Ned Batlin. Terry was a guardian angel for a lot of Westporters who might not have had anyone else looking out for them. And she did it without fanfare. Congratulations Terry.