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Clyde Saiki will step out as state human services director

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He concludes two years as chief of largest state agency, 30 years in state government; Youth Authority director, a former DHS employee, will take over Sept. 1.

Clyde Saiki says he is retiring after two tumultuous years as director of the Department of Human Services, which has the largest agency workforce, and a total of 30 years in state government.

Saiki, in an email to staff Friday, said he will be succeeded by Fariborz Pakseresht, who is no stranger to the agency. He worked there — and at the Department of Administrative Services — before he went to the Oregon Youth Authority in 2008. He became its director in 2012.

The changeover takes effect Sept. 1, although Senate confirmation of Pakseresht's appointment is required. Saiki will stay on in a limited role during the transition.

Saiki, 60, earned a bachelor's degree at Oregon State University.

Saiki worked previously at DHS for 23 years, rising to become its chief administrative officer and deputy director of operations before he took a similar position with the Department of Transportation in 2010.

He was Gov. Kate Brown's choice in 2015 for director of the Department of Administrative Services — the budget and management agency for state government — after Michael Jordan resigned. Jordan had served under Gov. John Kitzhaber, who himself resigned under pressure in February 2015. In that role Saiki was also the state's chief operating officer.

But Brown sent Saiki back to DHS in November 2015 after news reports about serious problems with Oregon's foster care system. He became permanent director in March 2016, and shortly afterward, he fired two two child welfare officials.

"In his three decades of service to the State of Oregon, Clyde has demonstrated exemplary leadership at every agency," Brown said in a statement. "I would like to thank him for his contributions to DHS and for his continued leadership through the summer to ensure a smooth transition when Fariborz takes the helm on Sept. 1."

Deputy Director Joe O'Leary will lead the youth authority on an interim basis Sept. 1.

In his email message to staff, Saiki said:

"When I came back to DHS, I told Gov. Brown that I was here to support her in any way I could. We have had incredible support from the governor and legislative leaders.

"Before the new director arrives, we need to finish the legislative session and begin the important work of implementing the 2017-19 legislatively approved budget — with investments and reductions still to be determined.

"There is much work to do between now and September, and while I know an adjustment to a new director will take time I hope that we can continue to work full steam ahead."

Even with the Oregon Health Authority split off in 2011, DHS still employs the most employees of any state agency at 7,900 full-time equivalents.

The agency has continued to struggle to resolve the child welfare problems.

The agency was created in 1971, although several programs — adult corrections, employment and youth corrections in addition to health — have been severed over the years.

In addition to child welfare, the agency oversees services for older people and people with disabilities, and programs to make people more self-sufficient. Its current two-year, $10.2 billion budget — $2.7 billion of it from the tax-supported general fund — is second only to that of the state health agency.

But the agency's budget faces paring with a projected general-fund shortfall of $1.6 billion in the 2017-19 cycle — and there is uncertainty about how much federal aid it will receive given President Trump's budget proposals.

"I know Fariborz very well, and I believe he is a great choice to lead the important work you all do every day," Saiki said. "He has history working at DHS and understands the importance of our programs in so many Oregonians' lives."

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