City picks its own as new DSS director
Posted: January 8, 2013
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — The new director of the Winchester Department of Social Services has a familiar face.
Amber Johnson, who’s worked for the agency since 2005, was named the department’s new director Monday. The 35-year-old Frederick County resident will be paid a salary of $87,500.
She succeeds Carla Taylor, who took over as Shenandoah County’s top DSS official in September. Johnson has served as interim director since her departure.
“When I came here in 2005,” she said, “I was welcomed by the community and want to continue the rest of my career here. I have no desire to go anywhere else. I’ve put down my roots here in Winchester.”
Johnson was selected from a pool of about 50 applicants from across the nation, City Manager Dale Iman said.
Three people were interviewed by Iman and Judy Sarber, the city’s payroll and benefits manager; Allyson Pate, chairman of the Department of Social Services advisory board; and Vickie Johnson-Scott, northern regional director for the Virginia Department of Social Services.
“I’m really pleased with Amber,” Iman said. “She did an excellent job during the interview process. The panel members were unanimous in that she was head and shoulders the best candidate for the position.”
The city manager said Johnson is well respected by officials with the courts and the outside agencies with which the department regularly interacts and labeled client services as her strength.
“She has a real passion for helping clients,” Iman said. “She’s recognized by the courts as an expert in her field, and she really does care for the people whose lives she’s trying to improve.”
Johnson earned both her bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in social work from West Virginia University.
The Arnoldsburg, W.Va., native began her career in West Virginia, working for about six years with its Department of Human Resources as a child protective services investigator, child protective services supervisor and a social services supervisor.
Johnson came to Winchester in 2005 as a social worker in Child Protective Services. In 2007, she was named the department’s social work supervisor.
“I started my career in child welfare in 2000,” she said, “and there’s really been a natural progression for a career in social services.”
Johnson said she worked closely with Taylor and will try to continue and strengthen programs launched in recent years, such as the Fatherhood Program. It involves classes to help fathers learn about parenting, financial stability and relationships.
“It helps dads increase their parenting ability with their children,” she said. “We’ve had really good community response to that program.”
The department has “an excellent staff,” Johnson said, which was another reason she was attracted to the position.
“We really have a team atmosphere here,” she said, “and we’ve been able to continue the work for the community.”
— Contact Vic Bradshaw at email@example.com