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Boulder County commissioners on Tuesday appointed Robert Williams, the chief program and policy officer in the Bureau of Behavioral Health for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, as the next director of the Boulder County Department of Housing and Human Services.

Williams’ appointment will fill a vacancy created in June when Frank Alexander resigned after having led the department for about 12 years to join Casey Family Programs as the national foundation’s managing director of Judicial and National Engagements within Systems Improvement.

Robert Williams will be the new Boulder County Department of Housing and Human Services director. (Boulder County/Courtesy photo)

Will Kugel, director of the Boulder County department’s finance division, has been serving as interim department director pending appointment of Alexander’s successor, and Housing Division Director Norrie Boyd has served as interim director of the Boulder County Housing Authority in the meantime. Those interim appointments will continue until Williams is on board, the commissioners said.

Williams “comes to us with extensive knowledge of the many areas addressed under our Housing and Human Services umbrella,” Boulder County commissioners said in a memo to the county staff on Tuesday.

“He has served in state and local government offices, providing leadership and direction to child welfare and child protection programs, health and human service programs at the county level, and financial compliance oversight in a government setting. He began his career as a case worker and knows firsthand being on the front line working with children, families, and adults in complex social situations,” the Board of County Commissioners wrote.

They said that in his current Illinois position, Williams “is responsible for ensuring quality behavioral health care coverage at sustainable costs and empowering people to make sound decisions about their behavioral health well-being. In addition to providing direction and leadership to all bureau operations pertaining to program and policy development and oversight of a $2.5 billion budget.

“Robert has focused his role on implementing solutions to providing comprehensive behavioral health services to children in out-of-home care, enhancing the behavioral health supports offered through Medicaid, and improving outcomes for children and youth through a multidisciplinary approach, including public health and school-based interventions,” Boulder County commissioners wrote county staff.

Williams has a B.A. in political science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison; a master of science degree in government accountancy from Rutgers University; and a master of science degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

County Administrator Jana Petersen said during Tuesday’s business meeting that 74 people applied for the director’s job, a field that was narrowed to 17 semi-finalists. Commissioners Matt Jones, Elise Jones and Deb Gardner — along with Commissioners-elect Claire Levy and Marta Loachamin, who will be succeeding term-limited Elise Jones and Gardner in January — interviewed Williams and one other finalist on Nov. 30.

The other finalist candidate was Kristin Hyser, deputy director of Housing and Human Services for the city of Boulder, county officials said in a Tuesday afternoon email.

Commissioners formally voted to appoint Williams to the Boulder County department director’s position during their Tuesday morning business meeting. They said Williams will be moving to Colorado from Illinois, with a specific start date yet to be determined “as a cross country move is especially challenging during a pandemic.”

Williams’ starting annual salary will be $175,000, officials said.