Sarah Vaine, Care Clinic CEO, hired as new assistant county manager
Good things come to those who stay.
So says Sarah Vaine, CEO of the Summit Community Care Clinic in Frisco, who was named the new assistant county manager to the Board of County Commissioners late last week. The longtime Summit resident will succeed Scott Vargo in the role when he transitions to the role of county manager on July 1.
“I think sometimes you get jobs just because people think you’re not going to leave,” she said. “Perhaps that’s why I got this county job, too. I feel so lucky to be in a position where I’ve had opportunities come up like this in this community. It’s really an incredible gift.”
Vaine — who has held her current position since 2008 and, before that, was the executive director of Advocates for Victims of Assault in the county — is like many county residents: first arriving with ideas of spending a single season and then just never leaving. After growing up in Detroit, she attended college at Xavier University in Cincinnati before coming to Summit County in May 1992 after graduating with a degree in psychology.
“I came out here and worked, and I was like, ‘What is this place?’” she recalled with a chuckle. “‘You mean people can actually live here and have a life here?’ There’s a core group of people that come for one summer, or one winter, and say they’re going to leave, and they fall in love and can never leave. That was my situation.”
She started out as a waitress at The Outpost at Keystone Resort, where she worked for a decade, before attending the University of Colorado-Denver and receiving her master’s in counseling psychology. Following a few years as a therapist with some partners in a private practice in Dillon while working in a juvenile diversion program at the local District Attorney’s Office, she accepted an assistant director position with Advocates. But where it’s taken her now 24 years later come May, she could have never foreseen.
“I always say, ‘Don’t get too cemented in your thoughts about what your life will be like 10 or 15 years down the road,” she said. “I could have never imagined this. Summit County is wonderful. I’m really excited to continue on in my career here.”
Once she takes on the new role, Vaine will oversee county departments that include Public Health, Human Services, the Summit County Library and Public Safety. Because of her prior work as the leading voice at the Care Clinic, which services what she calls “medically underserved” populations (i.e. un- and underinsured, as well as others who experience barriers to health-care access), she hopes to seamlessly pick up right where her predecessor left off, joking of only having to not screw it up.
“She’s a very humble person,” said Vargo. “Having somebody (who) has the relationships and the understanding of health and human services, nonprofits and governmental agencies is justv a huge step in the right direction for somebody taking this position. We certainly had no hesitation with regards to (her qualifications) and her ability to do the job.”
As the head of the Care Clinic, the relationship Vaine has fashioned over the years with county government — several members of which will become her new bosses come summer — doesn’t hurt either. The health center was originally born out of the Summit County Public Health, and the county provides the space to the clinic on the first floor of the Medical Office Building as an in-kind donation.
“I really feel like I’m going from one family to another family,” she said. “I know so many of the people who work for the county, and I just love and respect them. I think it will be as easy a jump from one thing to another as I could imagine.”
The decision to leave the Care Clinic, which she has run for eight years was an extremely difficult choice. But with some thought, she said she came to the decision that now could actually be a great time for someone new to come in and offer fresh expertise and perspective.”
“I had an exaggerated sense of my own importance,” she cracked. “I’m like the cheerleader. But cheerleading actually does not require a lot of smarts and skills.”
In all seriousness though, Vaine has been the face of the center for many years, helping boost it from a small safety-net clinic to a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHQ) in 2015. Today, it provides care to more than 7,000 patients annually and receives a yearly base grant of $650,000 from the government, among other federal financial assistance.
Still, the clinic carries on because of the community support it receives each year, and she has worries that people may no longer continue to offer donations once she’s gone. Which is why she persists in beating the drum to ensure contributors understand that it was never because of her that it became what it is today, but rather many others that will remain with the clinic.
“A great organization is much more than one person,” she said. “The people here are some of the smartest, most hard working, kind, wonderful people (whom) I’ve ever worked with. They’re the ones who really make the clinic special. (It) deserves and needs as much continued support as the community can muster.”
Until her departure in July, she will help in the search for her replacement, with a federal audit this summer, on a higher-level certification for the clinic and with the expansion of the clinic’s dental unit to the third floor of the Medical Office Building. Vaine said it will still be bittersweet for her to leave the clinic behind, and, even if her primary office will only be up one floor of the same building, “it’s a little heartbreaking, for sure.”
In her original pursuit of ultimately finding work where she could contribute to community in which she lives, it’s been worth the wait. And from this new role with the county, who knows.
“I just stay here and don’t leave,” she said with a smile, “and I could pretty much probably work into any job if I stay long enough. I’m just persistent. I love work and I get a lot of benefit from whatever I do. It is exciting and really an honor to become part of their team.”
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