LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Department of Social Services has a new director.
The five-member DSS board on Tuesday unanimously approved the appointment of Velvet Nixon, of Wilson, to lead the 353-member department. She replaces Becky Morrow, who retired on Dec. 31.
Morrow had served as director since April 2002 and had worked in various DSS positions since coming to work for the county in 1982. Leslie Fuller, the department’s current personnel director, had filled in as interim director since Jan. 3.
Nixon brings to the director’s post more than 25 years of experience working with Child Welfare at both the county and state levels. She most recently served as a program consultant with the Local Support/ Fatality Review Team at the North Carolina Division of Social Services, and as a member of the State Fatality Review Team.
Nixon said she is looking forward toworking in Robeson County.
“I am humbled by this opportunity and will work actively with everything in me to not let you regret your decision,” she told the board.
Nixon was the deputy director for the Wayne County Department of Social Services from 2009 to 2015. Before taking the Wayne County position, she was the child welfare program administrator for the Wilson County Department of Social Services and a state trainer with the N.C. Division of Social Services’ Staff Development Team. She also was a contract trainer with the Jordan Institute at the University of North Carolina’s School of Social Work.
Nixon is a graduate of Bennett College. She received her master’s degree in social work from East Carolina University. She is a member of the National Association of Social Work.
Derick Coe, DSS board chairman, welcomed Nixon to Robeson County.
“I’m excited about our new director,” he said. “I’m expecting great things from her.”
Coe said the board interviewed 11 candidates from North Carolina and South Carolina for the job.
In other business, board members were updated on Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts. Since the storm passed through Robeson County on Oct. 8, social workers have been assisting in the recovery of residents who had property damaged or destroyed as a result of storm-related flooding.
Dawn Gavasci, who is leading DSS efforts to find housing for residents displaced by the storm, said that initially there were 1,800 residents housed in Red Cross shelters. Employees of DSS were in charge of shelter operations for several days before the Red Cross arrived.
“There are still 425 families living in hotels,” Gavasci said. “We’re not sure how many individuals that is, but it’s between 800 and 1,000.”
The number of people in hotels is unclear because there are differences in the numbers reported by DSS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Gavasci said.
“We are doing everything we can to get these people out of hotels and into their own homes,” she said. “When everything is done, we won’t have to say we didn’t try.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.