So Many New-Guys, in So Little Time

We mention a few new state JJ leaders in the Newsmakers column of  November’s Youth Today:

“In Wisconsin, Margaret Carpenter is the new administrator of the Division of Juvenile Corrections, an arm of the state’s corrections department. On her resume alone, she appears to be a choice that will please anyone who is of the opinion that educating incarcerated youths is probably a good idea.

Carpenter has worked on both fronts: education of youths, and education in prison. She spent the past year as the corrections department’s education director for the Division of Adult Institutions. Before that, she spent 17 years teaching in the Chicago Public Schools and the Kenosha, Wis., Unified School District. She was also a Captain in the Illinois Army National Guard until 1996.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) announced last month that after a year and a half,  the state will remove the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) from conservatorship. TYC oversees all state-run juvenile prisons, while the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission runs all other post-adjudication programs.

The most recent conservator, Richard Nedelkoffon the job since December – will return to his job as chief operating officer at Clearwater, Fla.-based Eckerd Youth Alternatives, a multi-service agency serving youth in seven states.

It can be seen as an early vote of confidence for TYC’s new executive commissioner, Cherie Townsend, who took over Oct. 1. She ran juvenile court services for Clark County (Las Vegas), Nev., and before that held the same position for Maricopa County (Phoenix) in Arizona.

Townsend is not an outsider, though. Before all that, she spent 18 years in various roles at TYC, most notably as director of community services.”

Lest we missed any other autumn hires, we checked with the experts on state leadership: the Council of Juvenile Corrections Administrators, headed by Ned Loughran, which among other things trains new leaders.

No fall hires, but what we did find was even more interesting: in the past two years, there have been at least 17 newly appointed leaders! Here is a list, courtesy of CJCA’s Darlene Conroy:


Hawaii: Martha Torney

New Hampshire: William Fenniman

Connecticut: Leo Arnone

Wyoming: Robert Quick

Vermont: Stacy Jolles


New Jersey: Veleria Lawson

Kentucky: J. Ronald Haws

Florida: Frank Peterman Jr.

New Mexico: Debra Pritchard

Delaware: Richard Shaw

Indiana: Kellie Whitcomb

Pennsylvania: Andrew Snyder

Michigan: John Evans

Lousiana: Mary Livers (interim)

Nevada: Diane Comeaux

Wisconsin: Margaret Carpenter

Texas: Cherie Townsend

(Also worth mentioning: Kurt Friedenauer in Illinois was interim director of the Department of Juvenile Justice for two years; his job was finally made permanent in late September).

It’s not always a bad thing to have new blood flowing through a system. For instance, Livers in Louisiana is by all accounts a step up from Richard Thompson, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) first JJ appointee who made a very abrupt and bizarre exit to Puerto Rico after a brief tenure. And reform-minded advocates are, at least for now, hopeful that Florida’s Frank Peterman can be the guy that moves the state in the right direction (finally).

But 17 new bosses in two years? Wow. Each January, CJCA holds a two-day seminar for new leaders, and Conroy says a big part of the program is “peer-led sessions on topics critical to successful leadership [that] are conducted by veteran directors who provide case study examples and one-on-one mentoring.” At this rate, veteran directors will be people who trained the year before!

Actually, it’s pretty close to that now, because data suggest a veteran is basically anyone who lasts three years. The average life of a JJ administrator, according to Conroy, stands at 2.5 years. 

What gives? The turnover thing “has been going on for 20 years now,” says Loughran, and it always boils down to people retiring, being asked to leave, or people pursuing a totally different line of work.

Still, it is more rapid now than ever, he says, and there is one new phenomenon that he’s noticed in the past few years: governors “not appointing people coming up through the ranks” of the juvenile justice system.

More JJ leaders than ever are former legislators, police chiefs, prosecutors or defenders, he says. And the result is that “people tend not to see it as a career.”

By the way, CJCA has a great directory of all state leaders, and contacts for their second-in-command and support staff. It’s available upon request, so just call them. But make sure you get a new copy every year!



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