Public guardianship fulfills passion for people
January 4, 2011
From the time she was a 16-year-old Candy Striper, Claudette Springmeyer knew she had a passion for helping people. As the new public guardian, it is her job to assist Douglas County’s most vulnerable citizens.
It’s not without sacrifice, though, as Springmeyer retires from her longtime position as county comptroller.
“It was an opportunity that presented itself,” she said during an interview last week from her sunny corner office on the second floor of the Minden Inn.
Springmeyer said assisting her own elderly relatives, and acting as guardian in a few private cases piqued her professional interest.
“I’ve had it on my radar for the last year or so. I looked into the gerontology program at University of Nevada, Reno, took the Special Advocates For the Elderly training and training to be a hospice volunteer,” Springmeyer said. “It was kind of like, ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?'”
She was appointed to a four-year term by county commissioners in December to take over for Lynn EnEarl who resigned in August.
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Under Douglas County statute, the public guardian serves as the guardian of the person, the estate, or the person and the estate of an incompetent person.
So far as public guardian, Springmeyer has 23 clients in Douglas County and Carson City. She was able to visit everyone during December.
“Sometimes, it’s heart-tugging,” she said. “I know it’s sad, but there’s nothing I can do about the past. I can try to make the future better.”
Asked about what she can bring to the job as public guardian, Springmeyer mentioned two traits.
“I think the main fact is my care for these people, that I will try to make a difference in their lives. That, along with my experience here as comptroller to take care of their financial matters. If I don’t know the answer, I will know somebody who does,” she said.
Springmeyer said she is an advocate of an advance directive, a legal document that allows an individual to convey decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time.
“Don’t leave what’s ultimately going to happen to you to someone who doesn’t know you,” she said.
She takes the responsibility seriously.
“There’s a code of ethics,” she said. “Your duty is to protect the person and not benefit from anything that is theirs.”
John Giomi, who directs the county’s SAFE program, said he was thrilled to work with Springmeyer.
“In the short time she’s had the job, she’s made a difference in the lives of numerous county residents,” he said. “She works so well with the SAFE volunteers for the betterment of all.
“She’s a fabulous person to begin with and she’s concerned and caring about the elderly. I don’t have enough accolades for her.”
The guardian’s position pays $34,392 a year, about one-third of Springmeyer’s current position as director of administrative services/comptroller on a pay scale of $84,011 to $112,860.
With her retirement benefits after 22 years with the county, and her salary, Springmeyer said she’s not concerned about income.
She’s on contract with the county as public guardian and agreed to stay as comptroller until the county hires a new finance director.
Springmeyer, 57, went to work for Douglas County in 1988 after a dozen years in banking.
“I was hired by Sue Beaudreau as chief deputy auditor. I became the comptroller in 1994,” she said.
The comptroller performs a variety of duties including budget and revenue development and monitoring, capital project financing, payroll processing, accounts payable, accounting, debt management and staffing and budget.
At one time, administrative services included information technology, purchasing, human resources and the comptroller. Over the years, that’s changed to human resources and the comptroller’s office.
The office will split off to a finance director and human resources is to report to the county manager’s office.
County Manager Michael Brown described Springmeyer as his personal and professional mentor.
“Her integrity is second to none. She is honest, trustworthy and forthright. She represents the best that public service has to offer and the best that a human being can be. I will miss her immensely,” Brown said.
He said Springmeyer’s work ethic was exceptional, and often found her on the job from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m.
“She has been a highly effective leader of the employees who provide critical auditing, budgeting, and payroll services for our county government,” Brown said. “Her staff is excellent. They demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and abilities to protect and control the proper use of public funds every single day.”
Springmeyer said she was eager to stay on as the county prepares for the next fiscal year budget cycle.
“It’s been fun,” she said of the comptroller’s job. “The challenges that have grown. It’s going to be an interesting year. It’s tough, but rewarding to get there. I’ve worked for some really good boards. I had a lot of support,” she said.
Springmeyer said she would miss her colleagues, but knows she will be staying in touch.
“When you leave any job, you miss the people,” she said. “You make a lot of friendships.”