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Combining UCHRA/UCDD: Problem solver or bigger nightmare?

Jay Albrecht
Wednesday, Oct 3, 2012

The past few months have not played out well for Cookeville and Putnam County from a public relations standpoint. For various reasons, from secret political meetings to controversy in the property assessor’s office, negative attention seems to be a constant as of late.

Thankfully, things seem to be calming down (at least some) within the halls of the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency (UCHRA) and the Upper Cumberland Development District (UCDD), both agencies which have been under much deserved public scrutiny for most of this year. With new directors in place at each agency, changes have been made and goals have been reset to better reflect their respective missions.

And that’s where it gets interesting. The missions of each agency are extremely similar in nature – both dealing with overall “quality of life” issues within the 14 counties comprising the Upper Cumberland. While each agency provides a mostly unique set of services, there sure seems to be some overlap in the region served and goals accomplished.

UCHRA deals mostly with personal issues, assisting individuals with transportation and other tools to enhance their life. UCDD deals more with economic and community development concerns at the municipal and county level, also enhancing quality of life within each community served. Both agencies cross over, though, with UCHRA also serving overall community interests and UCDD providing certain services to individuals within our communities.

Given all the recent troubles with both agencies, from reported mismanagement by previous administrations, lack of adequate oversight by political boards and numerous financial issues, it seems now is a perfect time for major change – beyond simply appointing new directors.

Combining these two agencies into one unified body seems like a prime opportunity to eliminate unnecessary spending through more efficient staffing strategies, to provide a more cohesive set of services designed to meet the common “quality of life” mission, and to create an environment whereby oversight boards (which are already largely the same between the two agencies) can more easily manage the performance of the combined agency as a whole.

This isn’t a new, unproven idea. In northwest Tennessee, the development district and human resource agency have been unified under one umbrella and one executive director for years. In this particular case, the combined agency serves nine counties, apparently successfully, and with many of the same key personnel managing both the human resource and development arms of the organization.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m no expert when it comes to either agency, and I’m sure there are legitimate challenges to overcome in trying to pull off a merger such as this. However, it sure bears looking into the pros and cons of how the agency in northwest Tennessee pulls it off and why it would or wouldn’t work well for the Upper Cumberland.

In today’s world of pinching pennies while still trying to offer our people the most services possible, it only makes sense to explore all opportunities to improve – especially given the notorious recent past of UCHRA and UCDD.

Jay Albrecht is the publisher of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal. He can be reached at or (931) 528-8852.

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Sue Bailey
Thursday, Oct 4, 2012 at 11:27 AM
I fully agree with the suggestion made in this article.