Q&A: Secretary Wilkins says DCF ‘my first priority,’ ‘first love’
Jan 30, 2013

Related Coverage:

2013 Legislative Session

TALLAHASSEE (NSF)—David Wilkins became the secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families in early 2011—just days before the body of ten-year-old Nubia Barahona—who was supposed to be under the watch of the agency—was found, triggering a public outcry over the gruesome crime and the DCF shortcomings it revealed. Wilkins led the agency’s response, which included hiring dozens more child protective investigators, redesigning their role and training, and revamping the Florida Abuse Hotline. 

In March 2012, Gov. Rick Scott tapped Wilkins as the state COO for Government Operations, in addition to his job at DCF. He’s charged with steering all executive branch agencies to increased efficiencies and reduced government bureaucracy. 

Wilkins acquired his reputation for efficiency at Accenture, where he worked for 29 years, retiring the year before he joined DCF. The company had 200,000 employees and a market cap of more than $34 billion. Wilkins, who was promoted to partner at age 32, oversaw local offices in 25 countries and led the government strategic planning and corporate acquisitions units.

File photo by James A. Smith Sr.
Wilkins chairs the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet, serves on the Medicaid and Public Assistance Fraud Strike Force and sits on the Attorney General’s Commission on Drug Abuse and Prevention. He also serves on the board of the United Way and previously served on the board of the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes. He and his wife, Tanya, have been recognized for their philanthropy, and are members of Bradfordville First Baptist Church in Tallahassee.

Q: How’s that double-job thing working out for you?

WILKINS: The spring and summer were crazy, in terms of the amount of activities going on. We were putting a plan together about an efficiency agenda, how we would address what issues. At the same time, we had a lot of [state agency] secretary positions open. New people were coming in, and we were still recruiting other executives. 

Things have really calmed down now. We put a plan together, we’re running with that plan, all the other appointments are in, so all the different agencies are delivering on their strategies. And we put together legislative priorities for this session that [the Department of Management Services] is primarily running, around efficiency initiatives. 

I spend almost all my time back at DCF now. That’s always my first priority, and will always be my first love as well. 

Q: Talk about the efficiency agenda.

WILKINS: We systematically took the top 150 contracts across all agencies and asked the simple question, “Are we getting the best value for our dollars on these contracts?” We have made magnificent success in improving the efficiency of those contracts. The stories are great. Some are vendors coming to the table and saying, “Here’s a different way I could do things that could improve quality and value at a lower price.” In some cases, it’s us looking at different contracts across different agencies and saying, “What if we combine these?”

What we’re looking at now is institutionalizing this contract review and contract performance capability into DMS as a long-term service that we’ll continue to do on a long-term basis.

Q: What legislation is DCF proposing this year? 

WILKINS: This is Year Three of our legislative priorities, and we are in the middle of implementing our strategic plan, which is continuing to drive efficiencies in the organization. So we have some additional cost take-out that we’re proposing for this legislative session—which is, again, primarily in Tallahassee back-office operations. 

But we also have some additional performance improvement initiatives. So we have an initiative around community based care. If you remember, last year we implemented the Scorecard programs in terms of measuring performance at our different CBCs, which has been very successful. They’ve all risen to the challenge and improved their performance an average of about 20 percent in just one year. I think that’s just magnificent. It proves the age-old concept, “You get what you measure.”

Related Coverage:

2013 Legislative Session

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