Marin County Health and Social Services Director Wins North Bay Women in Business Award

Benita McLarin, director of the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services, is the recipient of the 2021 Women in Business Awards from the North Bay Business Journal.

Professional experience: Served 20 years as an active duty Medical Service Corps officer in the United States Army, serving in several locations around the world including during the First Gulf War and retiring as a Lieutenant colonel. Served as a leader and executive in several Bay County public health and health service agencies for the past 15 years.

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri; Master of Health Administration, Chapman College, Master of Science in Health Policy and Management, is currently working on a Doctorate in Health Services Leadership with Walden University.

Tell us about yourself and your business: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is an innovative integrated department made up of four divisions (administration, behavioral health and recovery services, public health and social services) that provide, coordinate and administer a range of federal services, state, and local programs addressing the health and wellness needs of county residents. Health and wellness is a priority in Marin, and the county is consistently named among the healthiest in the state in comparative rankings.

At the same time, many residents do not enjoy full and fair opportunities. The Department’s Strategic Plan for Achieving Equity in Health and Well-Being outlines its commitment to improve in a wide range of areas that affect health and well-being. Health and Human Services is the county’s largest department with over 700 employees and an overall annual budget of over $ 220 million. The department is responsible for approximately 40 programs which are located throughout the county and the community.

Is there a major accomplishment over the past year that you would like to share?

I am proud of Marin County’s many accomplishments during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep the community safe and healthy. We are especially proud of our status as the most vaccinated county in the state and nationwide.

What achievement are you most proud of?

I am a woman of faith and although I have had my fair share of difficult times, I want to acknowledge that I have been very, very blessed in my life and career.

I am very proud that when I faced adversity and challenges I did not give up (even if I wanted to) and I want to encourage all young people that no matter what you are facing you can move around or across or over it and be successful. ” Do not give up. “

What is your biggest challenge today?

Find enough time. There are many challenges going on with continuing the COVID response, balancing other professional responsibilities, being a caregiver, supporting my church and completing my doctoral studies and determining personal care.

Words that best describe you: Caring, hardworking, generous, responsible, mission oriented, commitment, service, humorous.

Personally, which of the adjustments you have had to make in your family life and career have been the most difficult?

I take care of my 84 year old mother who has many health problems. Asking for more help from family and friends was difficult for someone who felt they could do it all.

What about the women you work with or know outside of the workplace? What adjustments did they have to make?

Some of the women in our work had to home school and do their jobs at the same time, which was difficult. Some looked after their children during the day and worked non-traditional hours. At least one new mom I know decided she wanted to continue working remotely only and quit work instead of risking having to go back to the office.

Finally on COVID, what changes in your routine or approach to your work that you have made in the wake of the pandemic will remain in place, whether at work or in your outlook on your life at home?

We will likely offer continuous remote work days for some employees if the work permits and customer needs can be met.

As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you encountered and how did you overcome them?

As a professional black woman, I have faced many challenges in my career. One of the greatest is always to be “the first”. It is a big burden to bear, a constant judgment.

While in the military, I took on the challenge of facing a male dominated society where some men objected to being led by a woman. In the county world, like most workplaces, his perceptions are confronted.

For a woman, if you are aggressive you can be seen as too harsh, or if you are too caring you can be seen as too gentle. Finding balance and gaining respect is a challenge and a hard-earned one. I feel like you have to constantly prove that you deserve the job. You overcome these challenges by trying to be authentic, supporting others, and just trying to be the best person you can be.

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