Despite recent issues SDC’s CEO optimistic about agency’s future

July 16, 2015

By Steve Waring

Special to The Milwaukee Times



Between 2012 and 2014 the Social Development Commission (SDC) downsized from an annual budget of $52 million and 400 employees to an annual budget of $16 million with about 150 employees, after a W-2 state program was not renewed in 2013. The following year for the first time in 45 years, it did not receive funding for its Head Start program.

The loss of Head Start was particularly painful. In addition to losing more than $20 million in funding for 2014, the agency was also left with leases and ownership of properties for which it no longer had any use. This includes its headquarters at 4041 N. Richards St

George P. Hinton, who was appointed CEO in January 2014, said the agency hoped to complete the move from its current location by early next year.

Mr. Hinton was appointed CEO of SDC after the decision to terminate funding for W-2 and Head Start had already been made. He said he felt it was important for him especially in the beginning to lift the spirits of the remaining employees and help the agency refocus its mission.

The SDC was established as an intergovernmental commission under Wisconsin State Statute in 1964. In refocusing the agency, Mr. Hinton said he read the wording of the original statute which charges the commission with “recommend[ing] solutions for the major social, economic and cultural programs … and discrimination in housing employment, and public accommodations and facilities on the basis of sex, class, race, religion, sexual orientation or ethnic or minority status.”

Finances and staff stabilized after 2014, according to Mr. Hinton who said the commission recently completed a long-term strategic planning process. For the 2015 year it received $18.3 million in funding and is projected to spend $18.2, leaving a slight surplus. “We’ve got a road,” he said, “and we are doing well financially.”

That interview occurred the day before SDC received more bad news. On July 10, the agency was notified that it was not selected as the provider of the Energy Assistance Program in Milwaukee County. In 2014, funding to SDC for the Energy Assistance Program was slightly more than $6 million, meaning all else being equal, SDC is facing a 33 percent cut in its funding next year

Mr. Hinton spent the first 30 years of his career in healthcare administration. Prior to accepting his current position he spent more than 12 years as president of Aurora Sinai Medical Center in Milwaukee. He said he has no plans to retire, doesn’t change jobs very often and is determined to preserve the original purpose for which SDC was established.

He reports to a board of 18 commissioners: six of whom are elected as representatives of the community, six who are appointed by various government agencies such as MATC, UWM, the County Executive, the Mayor and the Governor. The other six are appointed by local not-for-profit agencies such as United Way, the Greater Milwaukee Committee, the AFL-CIO, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of Commerce.

“We have a very diverse board,” he said. “It is more difficult to manage a board that doesn’t select itself, but you can hear from a more diverse set of voices. At times members of the board might disagree how to accomplish a goal, but they are united behind the vision of advocating for people in poverty and providing them with the assistance they need for survival.”