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In a back room accessed by a half-door was Bruce Henricks, then a DHS accountant, who later became the department's director before retiring early this year.
Bruce Henricks and Richard P. Cummings couldn't escape the spotlight on the occasion of their retirements.
Henricks was honored by Heather Steinkamp and the Seibel Child Exchange and Family Visitation Center for his assistance in getting the project started. Then, more accolades came for Henricks, who is leaving his DHS director's post after 29 years of employment with Mower County. Henricks was appointed to the director's post in 1993 and saw DHS grow to a department providing 99 different programs and services to the needy. Ruth Schmidt, social services supervisor, praised Henricks, whom she said "Ranks at the top of the people I have worked for in my career." Kristen Nelsen, Mower County Attorney, called Henricks a "God-send." Craig Oscarson, county coordinator, said Henricks "has grown in his role as Human Services director." Henricks thanked the county commissioners for their support and understanding, praised his co-workers in DHS and called "Mower County the best county in the state of Minnesota."
Mower County Department of Human Services and Child Protective Services spokesmen, Bruce Henricks, DHS director, and Brent Gunderson, CPS director, declined to comment on the 14 year old girl's status since her complicity in the prostitution ring became known.
After nearly 3 decades, Henricks says farewell
It's all about "lasts" this week for Bruce Henricks. After graduating Austin High School, Henricks earned an associate's degree from then-Austin Junior College and a bachelor's degree from Mankato (now Minnesota) State University. He worked 6 1/2 years as an accountant for Wilson Foods in Albert Lea before being hired by Mower County DHS director Bob Schulz. "I was an accountant and we worked with ledgers in those days," he said. When Henricks began work Mower County DHS almost three decades ago, there were 32 employees. Today, there are more than 56. He worked as an accountant from 1979 to 1985, when he became administrative assistant to Schulz. When the DHS director retired in 1993, Henricks replaced him. He was there when the DHS moved from its North Main Street strip mall location to its current location at OakPark Mall in the former J.C. Penney Store in November 2004. In recalling near three decades of public service, Henricks said 1981 was a watershed year, because it ushered in the era of home and community-based waivers. But change would come fast and furious to Henricks' chosen career path. Adult protection, basic health care coverage, long term care, child support ... the life lines extended by DHS are many. All came with a price-tag that has created a growing demand on government's limited resources. The questions, Henricks and others like him faced, when the 1990s became a millennium were: Can DHS be all things to all people? Does it have enough resources to deliver the needed programs and services? Last question answered first. "No, we don't," Henricks said. The County Board has done what they could to help us." Still the cost-shifts from the state, mandated programs without funding, push a greater responsibility upon county governments to provide human services. That situation has caused DHS to "do away with almost all optional services," Henricks said as the financial times worsened. In an effort to reduce spending further, Henricks and others slashed their own travel and training budget. As Henricks pushed through tough financial times at the end of his career, he said it made him more aware of what people need to survive. "I've had to learn to work with and appreciate what people go through in life," he said. Henricks said he learned something from everyone he encountered in life, in the DHS and out. Working as an accountant and then the DHS department head was a good match for Henricks, who said, "I only wanted to be an accountant." The human misery toll was immense. One can't help but work in human services without being impacted by it. Henricks said, yes, there were the frustrations of mending holes in the human safety net to protect the needy ... just as there were success stories, too. Twenty-nine years doing a job he said he "loved" doing and doing it with people he admired and appreciated leaves him satisfied. "It's the right time for me to leave," he said of his decision to retire now.