• 66°

Chip off the old block

Geoffrey Marett is settling into his new position as Director of Gates County Social Services. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

GATESVILLE – Like father, like son.

AJohnstonCountynative is following in his father’s footsteps as Geoffrey Marett is the new director of the Gates County Department of Social Services. His father, Earl, has served as the DSS Director inJohnstonCountysince 1988 while his mother, Etta, also has a DSS background and has served for over 20 years as a Social Worker with theJohnstonCountyPublic Schoolsystem.

Although his parents are veterans in the field of Social Work, he didn’t originally plan to follow in the same footsteps.

“This was not the career path I thought I’d follow,” Marett said. “But now looking back on that path I have no complaints.”

Marett admitted that he was close to choosing a legal career as an attorney.

“I guess it all boiled down to Social Work being in my blood; choosing this career path has turned out as a natural fit for me,” he stated. “I’m a social person. I don’t have problems talking with people.”

Marett, 31, is a native ofSmithfield,NC. He graduated in 1999 fromSmithfield-SelmaHigh School. In 2004 he graduated fromEastCarolinaUniversitywith a Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work (Child Welfare/Collaborative Scholar). He performed his required intern work in Child Welfare (Social Worker/Investigator/Assessment and Treatment) with Greene County DSS and was later hired full-time in that position following graduation from ECU.

He continued to advance his education by receiving his Masters Degree in Social Work from ECU in 2006 and completed an internship with Wayne County DSS as a Foster Care Social Worker.

Marett was hired in August of 2006 by Lenoir County DSS as an Investigative Assessment/Treatment Social Worker 4 in the Child Welfare division. A little over two years later he was promoted to the Social Worker supervisor within the same division. He remained in that position until landing the Gates County DSS Director’s job in April of this year, replacing Colleen Turner who announced late last year that she was relocating to the home of her youth in southwest Florida to be near family and to head a non-profit organization that works to improve health and well-being outcomes for at-risk youth. Turner had served 11 years as Gates County DSS Director.

While any type of social work involves its fair share of emotional strain, Marett said it’s also rewarding in a sense of helping individuals at times when the chips are down.

“It makes me glad, and I know others here in this office feel the same way, when you can make a difference in the lives of an individual or a family,” he stressed. “Whenever you impact a person’s life in a positive way, that’s a good day.”

He continued, “It’s tough out there in the world…it’s tougher now due to the current economic downturn. We’re seeing people now that have never before had to turn to DSS for assistance. We always try to be sympathetic to everyone, no matter their need and no matter if it’s their first visit here or their 50th.”

Marett had a few thoughts to share with those individuals who are hesitate to turn to DSS for help, even though their life’s circumstances may have drastically changed.

“Sure, there’s somewhat of a stigma attached to this agency; we do see people sometimes that are finding it difficult to come in,” he said. “For some it’s hard to come to the realization that their lives have transformed from being a substantial individual to someone, who through no fault of their own because their means of income has been suddenly taken away, that is no longer able to support themselves or their families. We’re here for them. We want the services we offer them to be temporary in nature because that means they’ve gotten back on their feet and are able to support themselves and their family.”

Gates County DSS offers:

Child Protective Services

In-Home Services

Foster Care Services

Independent Living Skills for teens

Adult Protective Services

Food and Nutrition Services

Work First Program

Day Care Services

Medicaid

NC Health Choice

Child Support Services

Special Assistance Program

Crisis Intervention

Emergency Assistance Program

Gates County DSS also partners with Northeast Workforce Development, an agency that sets up shop inside the Gatesville office on Mondays and Fridays of each week to work their case loads within the county.

“Most of what has been portrayed out in the public about DSS is that those using this system of assistance programs are abusing the system,” Marett noted. “In our system we go by policy that’s administered through the federal government. We are a state supervised entity. There are checks and balances in place to ensure that all programs, all services are offered to those who meet the eligibility requirements. The people that come here are in need of help and that’s what we’re here for.”

As with his predecessor, Marett said he would utilize the faith-based community inGatesCountyto partner with DSS.

“They can help in so many ways, helping us recruit foster parents and working with us in improving the way of life here through safer housing,” he stated. “I’ve seen the faith-based community work well with DSS in the other counties I’ve worked.”

As far as advancing to the role of DSS Director at such an early age, Marett said he felt he was ready to take that step up the career ladder.

“I’m not that much younger than my dad was when he first secured a director’s job,” Marett said. “It’s not all about who leads or who follows, but more about having the training to know and understand the needs of your community.GatesCountynow is a lot like the oldJohnstonCountywhere I grew up, long before it got caught up in the expansion of population growth from neighboringWakeCounty. I feel right at home here.”

His goals for Gates County DSS are not so much personal ambitions, but rather building on what he called a solid foundation set long before his arrival.

“This county owes a debt of gratitude to Colleen Turner, and Gwen Lassiter before her and Mr. Hewitt before Gwen for leaving this agency in very good shape for the next director,” Marett stressed. “I just want to continue on the path they paved, a path where we continue to focus on our citizens and their needs. I’ve only been inGatesCountysince April and I have yet to hear anyone complain about how this agency operates. That tells me we’re doing it the right way.”

At Gates County DSS, Marett oversees a staff of 22 full-time employees.

Marett was married in June of last year to the former Katie McDuffy ofKinston. They met while she was enrolled in the Graduate Program at ECU. She has also landed a job locally, serving as a Child Psychologist with Gates County Public Schools. The couple resides in Hobbsville.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal