Ken Maaz, a much-admired administrator who has played a lead role in the social services arena on Vashon, is stepping down from the helm of Vashon Youth & Family Services to take a position as the head of an Enumclaw-based agency.
Maaz said it was a difficult decision to leave VYFS, where he has served as the executive director for a little more than two years. But the offer he received from The Ashley House, which runs five residential homes for medically fragile children, was an attractive one, in part because the organization offers health insurance and other benefits.
VYFS does not provide health insurance to its employees. And because Maaz has what the insurance industry considers a pre-existing condition, he’s been unable to purchase insurance as an individual, he said.
“I’m very happy where I am. I love Vashon,” said Maaz, who’s 57.
But the offer he received from The Ashley House “was substantial,” he said. “It included medical and dental insurance and will provide me an opportunity to put enough aside for retirement.”
“It was something I had to do in the interest of my future,” Maaz added.
News of Maaz’s departure hit some members of Vashon’s social services community hard. Many admire Maaz, a warm and easy-going man who’s considered a sharp and focused administrator as well. He also plays a lead role on Vashon: He heads the Social Services Network, a new coalition of organizations working in concert to ensure a range of Island needs is met. And he’s on the board of the Chamber of Commerce, the Vashon Island Rotary and K2 Commons.
“Losing him is going to be devastating,” said Emma Amiad, who heads the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness and is active in the Social Services Network.
“He’s been exceptional. I’m sure everything will keep moving forward. I’m just disappointed,” she said.
Maaz, she added, has shown considerable leadership both at VYFS and on the Social Services Network. “Ken is fearless,” she said. “He says what he’s thinking. He lays out exactly what the path should be. And he doesn’t sweat the small stuff.”
At VYFS, board members and employees also said they were extremely sorry to see Maaz go.
“We’re deeply disappointed,” said George Butler, who chairs the VYFS board.
Maaz, he said, has a blend of skills that worked beautifully at VYFS, a complex organization that receives an array of public funds, private funds and fees for services — all systems that require different kinds of reporting.
“It takes someone who can work their way through a fairly complex series of grants and reporting requirements, and that’s one special skill Ken has,” Butler said.
Equally important, Butler added, under Maaz staff morale has grown at VYFS, where people are “very hard working and grossly underpaid.”
“He’s an enormous loss. There’s no question about it,” Butler said.
VYFS, with a budget of $1.15 million and a staff of 10 full-time employees and 15 part-time employees, has grown during Maaz’s brief tenure. It now runs Vashon Kids, a before- and after-school child care program. PlaySpace, in the former YMCA building just north of town, is now owned by VYFS and offers a suite of programs and services.
The agency is also more active in the public schools, working closely with administrators on programs to prevent youth substance abuse. And the number of counseling sessions with the agency’s therapists has increased: In 2009, VYFS provided 3,300 sessions; this year, it’s on track to provide 4,500 sessions, Maaz said.
One of its biggest projects involves a federal drug-free communities grant, overseen by a coalition housed at VYFS. Luke McQuillin, who heads the effort for VYFS, said he, too, is sorry Maaz is leaving but doesn’t think it will hurt the efforts of the coalition, called the Vashon Alliance to Reduce Substance Abuse (VARSA).
“We’re going to miss him greatly. But we won’t fall over a cliff,” McQuillin said.
Maaz came to VYFS in June 2010, drawn here in part because of his strong connections to Vashon. His sister and other family members live here. Indeed, he lived on Vashon for several years while commuting to a job in Tacoma.
He now plans to move back to Tacoma — he owns a condo there — and will commute to Enumclaw. But he said he hopes that he’ll be back often, and, when he does, he thinks he might be able to more fully embrace Island life. As VYFS’s executive director, he said, he’s worked many weekends and nights.
“Vashon has always been a special place to me. … I hope to come over on weekends and enjoy all the things I love about this place, more than I do now,” he said.