Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Incumbent Democrat Karen Digh Allen and challenging Republican Kitty Zeugin hope to fill one of the lesser-known county positions that will appear on the ballot Nov. 6.
The county’s public administrator, an office that serves as guardian to a disabled or incapacitated person’s well-being, conservator of their assets or both, is an elected official appointed to look after aspects of the lives of those deemed mentally or physically incapable of making decisions or caring for themselves.
It is a job both women tout they have the experience and resolve to carry out.
A licensed attorney with nine years of experience in Jefferson City in various state legal departments, Digh Allen began her run as Callaway’s public administrator in 1997. She and her deputy are two of 13 nationally certified guardians in Missouri.
Due to the county housing Fulton State Hospital, Callaway has a higher caseload for the public administrator’s office than most similarly-sized counties in the state. Digh Allen has also had a smaller staff, but said she has managed to take care of them while continually setting goals to improve services.
“With a large caseload and small budget, I’ve had to be very creative and find ways to meet the needs and to insure people are getting services they need. I've got a team in place that I’ve spent 16 years developing... We’ve been providing for needs of clients for the past 16 years and would continue to do that.”
At it’s peak, Callaway’s public administrator office has handled over 200 cases, and currently handles about 180. It is a caseload Digh Allen’s opponent believes she can handle, as well.
No stranger to working with people who have mental illness, Zeugin had an over 25-year career with Fulton State Hospital as a reimbursement officer, managing state checks and benefits for clients. Barred from running for office due to her state job, Zeugin was able to realize that dream late into the political season this year when original Republican candidate for the position, Marcia Smith, withdrew from the race.
Zeugin said she’s handled similar caseloads on her own at FSH and did not foresee a problem with inheriting the office.
“I’ve done it before. I’ve been guardian of an individual and you have to make a lot of decisions. I’ve had power of attorney, which handles the finances. I’m currently payee of a few VA checks and have to manage those. I just don’t see a problem.”
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