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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…

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.

“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.”

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