Guilford County’s Department of Health and Human Services director position has remained vacant for five years, but it is vacant no more.

After a national search for a new director with more than 90 applicants, Guilford County selected Guilford County Social Services Director Heather Skeens to fill the job that oversees the largest department in the county. In one fell swoop, Skeens became one of the most powerful people in Guilford County government.

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners made the move after a closed session at the end of a long work session on Thursday, Oct. 15. The commissioners voted to approve the recommendation of Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing, who, as county manager, has assumed the duties of the Health and Human Services director since former director Joe Raymond skipped out on the job in July of 2015 after serving for only one year in the position.

Skeens was hired as the county’s Social Services director about six years ago and by all accounts has done an outstanding job with that department. She took over a department that was in shambles after a huge scandal in which the former Social Services director, Robert Williams, carried a massive backlog of food and nutrition benefits and attempted to cover up the problem. The deception and ineptitude placed all the food and nutrition benefits for the entire state of North Carolina in jeopardy.

Skeens was selected to help turn the Social Services department around and that is exactly what she did. Before the nearly unanimous vote Thursday night – the only no vote was from Commissioner Skip Alston – commissioners Justin Conrad and others heaped praise on Skeens for the job she had done with the county’s Social Services division, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services that she will now run.

Salary wasn’t discussed during the open meeting, but former Health and Human Services Director Joe Raymond was making $160,000 a year when he left in 2015.