Public Administrator Candidate profile: Keith Daniels, R-Exeter
Publisher's note: The following Q&As represent this Barry County public administrator candidate's views verbatim, as submitted via email in response to our questions, and have not been edited. The candidates will face off on the Aug. 2 Republican primary ballot. The Republican primary will serve as the de facto general election, barring a late filing by an independent candidate. - JB
Current Occupation: Retired Health Care Finance Executive
Past Experience: Twenty five years of healthcare finance and administrative managerial experience. The last 13 years were spent with Mercy Health in a number of management positions, most recently as the Revenue Cycle Director for Mercy Hospitals Aurora, Berryville and Cassville (concurrently). In this position, I worked very closely with all hospital departments in order to help achieve a positive experience for our patients and their families. I was the liaison between the public and Mercy on questions regarding billing and customer service. I also was responsible for reviewing and approving most of the financial hardship applications which were received.
Education: Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration with a major in Accounting from Missouri Southern State University. I also earned a Master's Degree in Healthcare Administration from Missouri State University.
1. Why do you want to be public administrator?
I just recently retired from Mercy and while with them I was able to help many, many people who were having a difficult time with our current healthcare system. The United States healthcare system today is very complex and problematic for most people. It has become even more complex since the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was implemented. In my position with Mercy, I worked with people who were ill and under a great deal of stress over their medical condition and the resulting hospital and doctor bills they would receive. I was able to answer questions about their bills and to help resolve any possible billing problems. I very much welcomed the opportunity to help these people because I felt it was my professional as well as ethical responsibility to help people. In meeting this responsibility, I felt I was fulfilling a mission that God had given me. If elected, I will bring that sense of mission to the Barry County Public Administrator's office. This office has a tremendous impact on the lives of many of Barry County's most vulnerable citizens. If I were honored by being elected for this position, it would give me the opportunity to once again have a positive impact on people's lives.
2. What makes you more qualified for office than your opponents?
I feel that my professional experience in healthcare and my education make me uniquely qualified to become the next Barry County Public Administrator. Throughout the last twenty five years I've gained a tremendous base of knowledge in how the healthcare system works today. Most notably, I am very experienced in resolving problems and acting as a liaison between the public and the healthcare provider. As a matter of fact, I was often called by the Public Administrator to answer questions and to help expedite final resolution on client hospital bills. I also have a great deal of healthcare financial and patient accounting experience. I spent my entire career working in small, rural hospitals which have limited financial resources. Being small with fewer resources requires the manager or director to always be a responsible steward of resources. Being a small rural county, we are faced with many of the same issues. It is the responsibility of all county officials to manage their offices in a financially prudent manner and to meet the needs of the citizens of Barry County. In addition to my professional experience, I've been able to attend college and earn a Bachelor's and Master's degree. The education I've received has given me the opportunity to work in the healthcare field and to grow as a professional. I hope to be able to serve Barry County with the experience and knowledge I've gained over the years.
3. What changes do you plan to make in the public administrator's office?
I plan on doing a thorough review of current policies and procedures to see if they are appropriate and relevant for the public administrator's office as it functions today. In reviewing the policies and procedures I want to be sure to talk to the current staff member to get her ideas and opinions on how we are currently providing service to our clients and to the public as a whole. I also think it would be wise to talk to the other county offices so as to have as good a working relationship as possible. Most importantly, I will speak to current clients and their families to see if changes are needed in order to improve the performance of the public administrator's office.
I will also look at the current workload of the office and decide if the staffing of the office is appropriate and meets the needs of our clients and the public. In doing so, I will closely review the financial operations and condition of the public administrator's office. There are very limited resources for this office, and it is imperative that sound financial management be used when allocating resources to meet the mission of the office.
4. What specific goals do you plan to accomplish in your first term?
The public administrator position is certainly a very challenging job with a wide range of duties and priorities. One very big goal would be to bring as much structure to the daily activities of the office as possible. That would require a detailed analysis of how and why certain activities are taking place. It has been my experience that sometimes certain procedures are established and continued because of a need or problem that no longer exists. When working with a small staff it is important to prioritize everything that is done in the office.
I would also like to establish a Code of Ethics for the public administrator's office. While current State of Missouri rules and regulations address ethical behavior in government, I think it is very important that there be a document which is relevant to the office and written in a manner that is easily understood, and addresses any possible conflict of interests that could possibly occur. It is important that even the appearance of impropriety be strictly avoided by this office. This Code of Ethics would be required to be reviewed, and signed by anybody working in the office.
One other important goal would be to have detailed job descriptions which clearly state the duties of the position and expected standards of performance. It will be the expectation that all staff members and the office as a whole will perform at the highest level of excellence.
5. What do you think is the biggest problem facing the public administrator's office? How do you plan to solve it?
After meeting with the current public administrator, Pam Modlin, and her administrative assistant, it's my opinion there needs to be an examination of the current duties of the office and the number of people needed to complete those duties in a thorough and professional manner. The public administrator and staff deal with issues that directly impact the lives and welfare of a large number of people. The office currently serves around 160 clients who need and deserve the very highest level of care and service. I believe this number will only increase as years go by. The current demographics of Barry County indicate we have an aging population. This will only increase the number of people that need to be served by this office in the future. The public administrator has to carefully consider the many healthcare and financial needs each of these people may present.
I believe it is possible to work with the existing funds available and the current budget to ensure an adequate staff size to meet the needs of the office. I would recommend that perhaps one more staff member be hired to help with the office workload. I want to emphasize this would only be done after a thorough analysis of current job duties and workflows. I would also deputize the current staff member to allow for timely and effective response to any pressing issues that may arise.
6. Are you prepared for this to be a 24/7 job? If so, explain how you would approach it. If not, how do you plan to serve effectively?
Having worked in healthcare for so many years, I am very familiar with the challenges of a 24/7 job. After having spoken with the current public administrator, I don't think it's feasible or desirable to continue with the same staffing pattern. As I stated before, I think it is quite possible to restructure the staff in order to more efficiently meet the needs of the public. This can be done by reallocating current resources with no additional fees needed. This would have no financial impact on the county government or on the clients who are served by this office.
Along with the restructuring, staff education and training is a very high priority so as to make these changes effective. The goal would be to deputize the current assistant so as help the administrator cover the overnight schedule with the goal of training the new person so they could also be deputized when they become knowledgeable enough to fill this role. This training period would be long enough and extensive enough to ensure full competence by this staff member. This way, there would eventually be three people would be able to share the after-hours phone calls and issues that have to be addressed.
There will always be some questions and issues that will have to be dealt with by the public administrator. I am fully accepting of this reality and look forward to the challenge of fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of this office.