Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bettie Geminder Interview

Having the opportunity to be home, I wanted to take advantage of interviewing a professional leader that wasn't necessarily involved in the arts and who had a career that had nothing to relate to my area of expertise but I was interested to learn more about nonetheless. My neighbor for over thirteen years and close family friend Bettie Geminder was someone I had to pleasure to interview. As I sat down with her and began the interview this is what she had to say:

What is your current job?
I am the Director of the HIllside Health Department and have been for the past ten years.

What are your responsibilities for this job?
I oversee a six member staff: two public health nurses, one environmental health specialist, one registrar of vital statistics and one clerical assistant. These are the people I 'manage'. I make sure the nurses do their clinics (communicable disease investigations, lead poisoning investigations, childhood immunizations, food poisoning investigations...etc) I also have to make sure the registrar keeps record of births, marriages and death certificates. Permanent records are archived and kept in the health department. I oversee to make sure that this person gets that all done. As for the environmental health specialist I make sure he inspects all the food, restaurants, stores, food establishments and make sure the are all compliant with health inspection regulations. He or she makes sure they are safe.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I would say the diversity. Each day is different. You're not going to get the same problems, resident concerns. Each day is a different problem that has to be solved. You're not going to be bored when you go into work. It challenges you to do something different everyday. I've never been bored in thirty years.

What do you least like about your job?
Probably the politics, dealing with the local mayor and other government officials. And the paperwork. All the stuff you have to do but don't want to do.

What leadership positions have you had in the past?
My first job was a staff nurse in Labor and Delivery at the University Hospital in Newark. I workedd there for two years and then took the position of public health nurse in Hillside for twenty years and then was promoted as Director.

How have these past experiences helped shape you into the person you are today?
I always had the desire to be involved in a lot of activities (I was High School Vice President and Senior Class President) This helped me move into wanting to be a nurse, in order to be a nurse you have to be and outgoing person to help know what your patient is going through. Constantly being involved helped me become a confident nurse that helped me get involved with the public. You're dealing with senior citizens, children, have to be able to adapt to each person's issues.

Have you ever taken on a leadership where the outcome did not go as you expected? What went wrong? What could you have done differently?
I put together a walking club a couple years ago where everyday during employees 20 minute break we would all meet and map out a route around town hall and walk half a mile. I had opposition from other department heads.Colleagues wanted me to discontinue this program because it was interfering with their work schedule. I could have tried to educate the department heads about the effectiveness of the program. Maybe I should have checked with them to make sure they were on board with the program and agreed with it.

In you mind, what constitutes a good leader?
These are cliches but being fair and understanding are two. Assertive yet flexible where there are certain things I want done. And I can be very demanding. Having that open mindedness gives you that respect from your employees. If you were tunnel visioned then that leadership quality isn't there if you aren't willing to be open.

1 comment:

  1. What did you take away from this interview? I would be curious to hear how your view of Ms. Geminder has changed since this interview.

    I wonder how the experience with the walking program affected the morale of the employees. Did the opposition to it make her and/or her employees feel less valued/empowered?