WAYNE COUNTY—After four and a half decades of service to Wayne County, Andrea Whyte, Human Services Administrator, said goodbye January 11, ending a long chapter of growth and development for the county's human services operations.
“I've had an enjoyable time,” said Whyte in an interview at the start of her last fortnight on the job. “Very few times in my work life did I not look forward to coming to work.
“It was always a challenge and it was fun to join the team or create a team that we could figure out a way forward.”
Over the course of 45 years, Whyte saw the department grow from four individuals in 1973, concerned primarily with matters of the aging public, to over 200 employees in interconnected offices helping the public as they age, cope with developmental disabilities, handle addiction, and many other day-to-day services.
One of the first tasks she preformed was establishing a nutrition program in the Aging office for seniors.
“I was administrator of a particular grant we had, the Nutrition Program grant,” said Whyte, “but there was a lot of direct service because our staff was really small. I learned every road in this county delivering meals.”
Continuing to identify senior needs in the community, Whyte noted the Aging office kept expanding to include socialization services through senior centers, transportation services, case-work and protective services, and in-home care services, many of which were funded in part by grants Whyte helped the office write.
In the process of writing grants for senior services, Whyte said “We noticed in doing that, there were some people who were under 60, which was our cutoff originally with aging, that were also in need of services.”
She later added “We didn't want to be turning away a person when we had knowledge that would help them, no matter what age they were, no matter what their circumstances.”
Grant writing expanded to cover assisting these individuals, said Whyte, growing operations into the 80s to include food pantry services.
“In 1995, I was asked by the county to consider overseeing, or at least bringing in-house, the drug and alcohol commission which was shared with another county at that time.”
Having by this point climbed from Nutrition Program Director, to Deputy Aging Administrator, to primary Aging Administrator, when the Drug & Alcohol Commission was brought under her domain, Whyte's title became Human Services Administrator, and remained as such in the nearly quarter century since.
In 1996, Whyte began aiding operations in Children and Youth Services, which eventually came under the Human Services umbrella.
Behavioral health services soon followed suit.
Describing this evolution of duties as a “natural progression,” Whyte noted having these myriad offices all together in one branch of the county operational tree helps them function better as a cohesive unit sharing resources.
It also makes it easier to get all the necessary help to individuals or families who may need assistance from more than one office, she added.
“We share internally with each other and I think it makes it a stronger interactive and integrated whole for people who live here, and that was the whole idea of this.”
Despite being at the head of many of the developments which grew the department into the multi-faceted cluster of offices it is today, Whyte was reluctant to take credit without noting the contributions of each and every staff member who helped her along the way.
“This was a team effort,” she said. “No matter what you think you can do, you're dead in the water unless you have the backing of your bosses, the backing of your staff and consensus of the residents.”
Happy with the progress she's made in her four and a half decades with the county, Whyte is looking forward to having lunches with friends not bound by time constraints and spending time with her grandchildren.
Noting that she'll miss the daily interactions with her friends and coworkers, Whyte stated, “Overall, I feel very blessed. I've had a happy life.”
Accolades for Andy Whyte
A testament to the legacy Whyte leaves behind, the Wayne County Commissioners board room was packed to bursting yesterday morning with teary-eyed coworkers, local officials and all three state representatives to honor the departing administrator on her penultimate day with the county.
Presenting Whyte with a certificate of appreciation, the Commissioners had nothing but kind words to say.
“I've always admired you,” said Commissioner Chairman Brian Smith. “Your ability to deal with people on all different levels is incredible. What you've done for this county and Human Services, and so many children and so many adults is just awesome.”
Commissioner Kay likewise noted, “I really do believe that you were meant to do this job. You're a perfect combination of intellect and compassion.”
Noting “We all look up to you. We are all very admiring of your abilities,” Commissioner Joseph Adams added, “Andy leads by example and that example is truly caring about the people you serve, truly caring about the employees and their families, and that doesn't happen very often.”
Noting it was a day of “mixed emotions,” County Chief Clerk Vicky Botjer wished Whyte well while noting she is “sad to see you go.”
Presenting Whyte with a commemorative Senate resolution, Senator Lisa Baker stated of the retiring administrator, “The humility you display is really something...You embody to me, a true servant leader.”
Referring to Whyte as a “pathfinder,” Baker noted Whyte performed her duties with grace, dignity and humility which will inspire others to do the same.
Representatives Jonathan Fritz (R-111th, Wayne, Susquehanna) and Mike Peifer (R-139th Wayne, Pike) presented Whyte with a citation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Noting that the number of individuals reached by Whyte's commitment to the county is nigh immeasurable, Fritz stated to Whyte, “Think about how you've affected [those you've helped] families and their neighbors and their friends. Andy, you have had such an incredibly profound impact with so many people.”
Alluding to the challenge faced by a finite pool of resources, Peifer stated, “You did your job in a practical way, knowing full well that you did have limited resources, but you did provide the caring that was needed.”