After more than 31 years of heading the Lorain County Job and Family Services team of nearly 250 staffers and working with budgets exceeding $600 million, Mary Lou Golski is retiring this spring from the position she used to make her department team a consistent winner in providing a wide range of services to many people. As she departs, she leaves with accolades for what she did through the years. 
“She was there when I got there as a commissioner and she was there when I left,” says Betty Blair, the former four-term county commissioner who retired in 2010. “She always ran a good department and had a good team of employees who helped people.”
Blair adds Golski was outstanding at administering different areas, whether it was food assistance, welfare or work programs, Medicaid or blending people and clients into a successful mix.
“She was taking care of those services for not only Lorain County, but the State of Ohio,” Blair says. “That’s a pretty big team to manage, and she always did it well.”
Blair says, in particular, she remembers Golski’s handling of moving the Job and Family Services department from five locations in the county into one in the old Cooks department store building between Lorain and Elyria in the mid-1990s.
“That was controversial for all of us at the county,” Blair says. “A lot of people didn’t think it could or should be done. She got it done and kept those services going.”
Lorain County Administrator Jim Cordes, himself a longtime county official, put Golski in a class by herself. “I’ve worked with Mary Lou Golski for over 23 years and, in my 35 years of management, I’ve never worked with a finer leader,” he says. 
Former Lorain County state Rep. Matt Lundy, who is now a county commissioner, says Golski deserves credit for her team continually working well despite constantly changing conditions.
“The State of Ohio does not make it easy to administer those type of programs because rules and regulations are changed a lot in the programs they are involved in,” he says. “It was always something that was tough to keep up with, yet she and her staff always managed to get it done.”
For her part, Golski prefers not to talk much about herself, instead crediting the staff.
“We’ve had a very dedicated group of people working here,” she says. “I’d say people do need our services now more than ever, so we’re dedicated to helping them.”

What She’s Learned

■ Golski has always emphasized teamwork and communication, both within the agency and when people are working with clients. “There’s a lot of different people and groups involved, and we are trying to help people so we need to make sure we treat people with dignity in a caring and fair way,” she says. “Most people prefer being able to be self-sufficient, so we need to assist them in doing that.”

■ Change is a constant in government service.

■ “When you are working with clients and different agencies, they change through the years,” she says. “During the Clinton Administration the entire welfare system changed to time limited entitlements.”

■ “You adjust” she says “during the recession years, when our funding was cut and staff was reduced. Another adjustment was merging five offices into one location.  Our new location works very well for us since its located between the two major cities in Lorain County.”