New director is part of Potomac Center's past

Marshall first worked at Hagerstown facility in 1982

Marshall first worked at Hagerstown facility in 1982

June 17, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- As the Potomac Center in Hagerstown nears its 30th anniversary, an employee from its early days has returned as director.

When Cathy Marshall started this spring, she gave the staff "Cathy's Greeting," which is part scrapbook and part mission statement.

One picture shows her employee badge and ID photo from 1982, the first time she took a job at the Potomac Center, one of four state-run facilities for people with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities.

Her greeting describes her life 26 years later - her career, her family and her hobbies, such as fishing, hiking, riding horses, and shooting targets and clay birds.

"Things have changed over the years," she wrote. "Listening to Led Zeppelin full blast has turned into listening to Mercy Me, Third Day or Skillet full blast because I have ruined my hearing. My iced tea addiction has turned into coffee. I now answer to Nanny as well as Mom.


"Two things that have remained constants are my best friend Pamela Walsh Jassal, who I met my first day of orientation at Potomac Center, and the special place that developmentally disabled individuals hold in my heart."

Marshall, a Sharpsburg resident who turned 51 Monday, said she modeled her introduction after one Cynthia Pellegrino made at Western Maryland Hospital Center, where Marshall worked for more than 17 years.

The Potomac Center was without a permanent director for at least nine months until Marshall took over in April. Her salary is $87,680, according to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

In 1977, after graduating from Hagerstown Junior College, Marshall took a job as a Washington County Public Schools teacher's aide for children with a range of mental disabilities.

She then worked at the Potomac Center, caring for clients, from 1982 to 1986.

During that time, she also pursued a nursing degree.

She took a nursing job at Western Maryland Hospital Center, working with people who needed ventilators to breathe, but left within a year. Marshall said she was "emotionally not mature" enough for that work at the time.

After a few other jobs working with people with disabilities and after getting a bachelor's degree, she returned to Western Maryland Hospital Center, this time staying for 17 years.

Steve Berger, a Western Maryland representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents state employees at the Potomac Center, said Marshall seems to be developing a good relationship with the staff.

The center once was licensed for 134 clients, but, as clients have returned to the community, the number has dropped, Marshall said.

A few weeks ago, the center had 61 clients. That included 12 who were "court-involved," meaning they'd been accused of crimes, although none were violent, she said.

Marshall said she's switching the center from a management approach, with one person making decisions, to a leadership style, in which the staff and supporting data are part of decisions.

She's working on a long-term strategic plan that might include opening the center's gym and handicapped accessible pool more to the community.

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