Today, we posed a few questions to our Executive Director, Max Lytle. Here are his (sometimes surprising) answers:
How many years have you served people with developmental disabilities and in what capacities (board service, volunteerism, etc.)?
Well, 2015 -1977 = 38 years. I started this journey with a desire to become a Special Education teacher when I enrolled in what was then called Northeast Missouri State University (now known as Truman State University) in 1973. In December 1976, I had finished all of my course work, so upon completion of student teaching at Orchard Place, a special school for students with severe emotional disturbance in Des Moines, Iowa, I took a teaching position on January 2, 1977. I taught students with developmental disabilities of various forms for seven (7) years. At one time or another during those seven years, I worked with students from Kindergarten to Seniors in High School. In 1984 I left education and went to work for the Missouri Department of Mental Health at the Hannibal Regional Office. I started as a Case Manager, but was quickly moved to the Purchase of Services Coordinator’s position, then the Regional Program Specialist. In November 1988 my home county, Marion, passed the Senate Bill 40 tax levy. At that point I had been working with the County Boards for Developmental Disabilities in the Hannibal Regional Office area for approximately 3-4 years. I applied for the position of executive director of the newly formed Marion County Board for the Developmentally Disabled and was fortunate enough to be selected for the job in April 1989. I held the position with Marion County Services until 1989 when I became the executive director of Douglass Community Services in Hannibal, MO. Douglass is a large non-profit that provides Head Start and a variety of other services for persons who are low income. It was a nice job, but I quickly realized I had left the field I most enjoy and was thrilled when the opportunity came to move to Taney County in 2002 to become the executive director of the Taney County Board for the Developmentally Disabled.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your position?
Leadership; staying ahead of an ever-growing program and staff. “A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther that others see, and who sees before others see.” (by Leroy Eims) It’s a big job, but I love it. No one in my position ever said they were bored with their jobs. It is always something new and challenging every day.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Working with people. During a pre-college aptitude test the instructor told me to forget about working in a factory setting. He was right, I don’t do repetition very well. I like the constantly changing world of working with people. Supporting consumer learn new skills and achieve their personal goals. Watching staff grow into positons of new authority and responsibility. Conquering the ever-changing set of federal regulations attached to the grants and funding we seek to support the programs and services we provide to people with developmental disabilities and their families. You don’t get an “atta-boy” every day and you don’t always go home feeling great about this job, but I never wake up in the morning dreading coming to work either.
What is the one thing you want people to know about DevConn?
That the residents of our county have something they should be proud of. Our board of directors and staff have over 30 years of experience funding, developing and providing services for residents of Taney County. The facilities and properties we have developed are beautiful. We are a very unique agency; mixing a local county governmental entity with nonprofit service programs and federal funding sources to bring the best possible services and programs available for persons with developmental disabilities to rural Southwest Missouri and Taney County. I am generally a pretty humble person, but we have something special here. We are leaders in the state in exploring new models of developing affordable housing for persons with disabilities and our model of providing residential support services is both highly effective and lower cost than similar services found in other areas of the state. Our Creative Day Services program, emphasizing an arts activities format for persons with severe and profound levels of disability, is truly a “one-of-a-kind”. And, last but not least, Tantone Industries is a booming business focused on serving the business needs of our tourism based local economy while providing quality jobs for adults with disabilities.
What is one way in which our community can help foster the mission of DevConn?
We need the members of our community to get involved in the programs and services we provide to Taney County residents who have developmental disabilities. We need everyone to spread the word about what our County has to offer to those who need the extra support and services. Autism is an epidemic and developmental disabilities in general strike more families that most of us would ever imagine. We often say “Developmental Connections is the best kept secret in the county”. If we are ever going to fulfill our mission, we need the citizens of our communities to share the word with those who need to know. There is help available and you are not alone in this journey.
What is your favorite quote or saying, and why?
“Loyalty to a petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul.” It reminds me that I have to be creative, think out of the box and question why we do things as we have always done them every day. To some the “tried and true” provide routine and stability, but to many they are a reminder that their world is not quite right. It is insufficient to meet their needs and provide them with a satisfying lifestyle, and it will always remain that way as long as we stick to the “tried and true”. I work with a lot of wonderful people and my number one responsibility is to change their worlds in such a way that they gain more satisfaction and fulfillment from every day, ordinary routine things that most of us take for granted. And, oh, the quote is attributed to Mark Twain, but really, I think it is something my grandmother taught him.