RICHMOND, SEPT. 15 -- An Iowan was named today as commissioner of the Virginia social services agency, which is charged with administering the state's snarled child support payment system.
Larry D. Jackson replaces William L. Lukhard, a career bureaucrat who retired and whose final year was marked with controversy and complaints over a computerized support payment plan.
Human Resources Secretary Eva S. Teig said that Jackson, 48, will take over the beleaguered agency Oct. 13. Teig said Jackson has directed the nation's most cost-effective child support operation in Iowa. He also "has demonstrated a lot of sensitivity in how to deal with local officials," she said.
Meanwhile, Teig said, a newly designed computer system is scheduled to be in operation later this fall. The state has missed the only deadline in delivering support payments since it was placed under a court order in December, Teig said. There had been many complaints that money was not reaching intended recipients in a timely fashion after the state took over collection and delivery of support statements.
Gov. Gerald L. Baliles, in naming Jackson to the $65,118-a-year position, directed him to "set immediate priorities" to make the child support program more effective and to improve relations between state and local social service agencies.
Jackson said Virginia officials told him a number of areas need to be reexamined, including how to measure performance and how to improve relationships with clients and other agencies.
"Child support, obviously," he said, citing one specific problem that will need attention.
"We'll look at what we can salvage and where we're going to have to start all over," Jackson said.
Jackson, a lifelong resident of Iowa, said he learned about the opening in Virginia from a friend who showed him an advertisement for the position, which was the subject of a national search.
Baliles said that Jackson, who has been deputy commissioner and director of community services in Iowa for four years, was credited with restructuring that state's support enforcement program, and increasing collections over four years from $14 million to $40 million annually.
Jackson's reorganization of the community services program in Iowa, Baliles said, improved delivery of services, while saving the state about $4 million a year.
Before joining Iowa's human services department in 1974, Jackson was a junior high school teacher in Davenport. He holds degrees from the universities of Iowa and Northern Iowa.
Lukhart's retirement, announced June 18, was effective Sept. 1. He had headed the agency for more than a dozen years and had worked for the state 30 years.