For Immediate Release

(Atlanta) - The Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA) marks a milestone in its efforts to transform vocational rehabilitation services in Georgia. A highly competitive search led to the hire of four Assistant Directors, who will assist Vocational Services Director Dr. Christine Fleming in leading employment and training efforts for people with disabilities in Georgia.   

These new positions are part of a broader effort to implement process improvement in a way that better serves the agency's clients.

"While organizational structure is not the sole focus of this process, a better framework will help facilitate other needed improvements to the way we do business," said Dr. Fleming. "In July, we opened a competitive recruiting process to fill four assistant director positions. We received an impressive pool of candidates, but I firmly believe those we selected bring the right blend of skill and experience to the table."

Here are bios for the new leadership team as well as more information about the functions they will lead:  

 

Jeff Allen
Assistant Director of Transition Services

Jeff will provide direct leadership and management to the VR Transition Services team. He will oversee the delivery of Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) and transition services statewide and ensure compliance with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA).

Jeff received his Master's of Science in Counseling and Psychology with a concentration in Vocational Rehabilitation from Troy University in December 2010. He has maintained his Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) Credential Since 2010. Jeff began his career in rehabilitation at Roosevelt Warm Springs as a Counseling intern and part-time Social Service Technician in the dormitory.
 
Once he completed his degree at Troy University, Jeff was hired as a CRC in the Gainesville VR office.  Over the past nine years, he has served in several different roles within GVRA including Transition Counselor covering Hall County Schools, Statewide Coordinator for Transition Services, Career Pathways Specialist under the E3 Grant, and most recently as a Policy and Appeals Advisor.
 
Jeff currently serves as President for the Georgia Rehabilitation Association (GRA). He has served on several statewide advisory boards including the State Advisory Panel for Special Education, SPECTRUM Autism Support Group Advisory Board and the Tools for Life Advisory Board.
 
Jeff was born in Conyers, Georgia, and has spent most of his life living in Georgia. He currently resides in Dacula, Georgia, with his wife and three-year-old daughter.

 

Julie O'Connor
Assistant Director of Program Support

Julie will provide leadership and direct management of the VR Program Support team. The Program Support team will facilitate efforts to improve performance and service provision and increase clients' successful competitive integrated employment outcomes. The team will also ensure compliance with the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) regulations, WIOA, and Workforce Development, as well as oversee VR program initiatives and partner collaborations and develop and implement a robust training program for all VR staff. 

Julie received a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Augusta College and a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Auburn University. Julie began her career with the state of Georgia as a Family Independence Case Manager at the Richmond County Department of Family and Children Services in 1993. Previously, she was the Community Director of the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation and the Development Coordinator for Easter Seals of East Georgia.
 
Julie began working with the state vocational rehabilitation program as an Account Representative in July 1999. During the past 21 years, Julie has worked in the positions of Rehabilitation Counselor Associate, Rehabilitation Counselor and Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. She was a Rehabilitation Unit Manager/TANF Unit Manager for ten years. Julie developed statewide rehabilitation experience by serving as a Policy and Appeals Advisor for six years where she provided statewide technical assistance and guidance to ensure policy compliance and due process. She also held the position of GVRA Customer Care Manager, where she assisted internal and external customers in resolving issues and concerns with all agency programs.

In March 2017, Julie returned to the VR Program as the Assistant Director of Field Services – East and became the Director of Compliance, Policy and Training in December 2018.
 
During her VR career, Julie has served on numerous statewide committees working to improve the quality of vocational rehabilitation services, develop new initiatives and ensure staff development. She lives in Appling, Georgia, with her spouse of 21 years and has two sons.

 

Sheila Pierce
Assistant Director of Provider Management

As Assistant Director of Provider Management, Sheila will provide leadership and direct management of the VR Provider Management team. She will oversee staff who directly interact with external partners, ensuring those relationships remain robust and client needs are served.

Sheila  joined GVRA in 2019 as the Director of Provider Relations. Sheila, who has more than 20 years in public administration leadership, joined GVRA from the Department of Public Health (DPH), where she served as Division Director for Strategic Partnerships and Health Policy. Her expertise includes procurement and contracting, strategic planning, regulation and compliance, communications, open records and records management and opioid program management.

In addition to a five-year tenure with DPH, Sheila is a former Deputy Commissioner of the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management, where she oversaw procurement and contracts, internal and external communications and outreach and human resources, among other administrative functions. She was also the sole Deputy County Manager for Fulton County, with oversight of planning and implementation for a $1 billion budget. Additionally, Pierce established the Fulton County Office of Contract Compliance and Equal Employment Opportunity, over which she served as Deputy Director.

 

Paige Tidwell-Cason
Assistant Director of Client Services

As Assistant Director of Client Services, Paige will oversee the delivery of client services statewide through the provision of leadership to the District Managers and VR client services teams. She will be responsible for implementing effective accountability measures, adherence to program policies and federal regulations, monitoring program effectiveness and impact and ensuring staff have the tools and competencies needed so that agency goals are not only met but exceeded.  Paige will be joining GVRA September 1, 2020.

Paige has been in the counseling profession for over 25 years, with 11 years at GVRA, where she worked as a rehabilitation counselor and evaluator, unit manager, and statewide coordinator for VR services and Program Evaluation. In June of 2015, Paige joined the Institute on Human Development and Disability (IHDD) at the University of Georgia, where she has been responsible for providing leadership to projects related to employment best practices, VR consumer satisfaction, transition and assistive technology. Additionally, for the past eight years, Paige has been a contracted vocational expert for the Social Security Administration’s Office of Hearing Operations. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the National Rehabilitation Association, the Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Association and the Georgia Rehabilitation Association.

Paige has a specialist degree from George Washington University in Special Education and Transition, with a concentration in Vocational Evaluation Training, a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of South Carolina and bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Georgia. She is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, Certified Vocational Evaluator, Licensed Professional Counselor and is a registered Professional Vocational Evaluator.

 

Media Contacts:

Robin Folsom, Director of External Affairs, Robin.Folsom@gvs.ga.gov

John Peyton Boan, Manager of Communications@gvs.ga.gov