Davis reflects back on ADRS career

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For Melinda Davis, the success she has achieved with the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services has been based not only on the knowledge she gained on the job but also on a strong family and spiritual support system.

Davis, who was honored with a retirement coffee Monday, April 29, has dedicated decades of her life to helping children with special health care needs reach their full potential. She said she was driven by a desire to make a difference but also led by a higher power.

“I always tell people that my journey here has been a journey of faith,” she said.

ADRS Commissioner Jane Elizabeth Burdeshaw offered her gratitude to Davis. She said the two recently discussed the amount of time she had spent with the department and the difficulties and tough decisions she had faced.

“It’s not easy, and you have done that for 12 straight years without tiring,” she said. “You have stayed up nights trying to make sure work is handled.”

Davis’ career with ADRS began in 1980 when she joined the department as a clinical fellow while finishing her graduate studies in audiology at the University of Alabama.

After receiving her master’s degree, she worked as an audiologist at Auburn University Montgomery and Montgomery Public Schools. In 1998, she applied for the audiology program specialist position with CRS. During her interview for that job, then-ADRS Commissioner Lamona Lucas encouraged her to change course and apply for the open Montgomery supervisor position.

With limited experience supervising employees, Davis said she was initially apprehensive about her new role. Her husband, Terry, urged her to take a chance.

“He told me that as a supervisor or leader, everybody is not going to like you all of the time. They are not going to like some of the decisions you make,” she said. “If you can handle people disagreeing and even resenting you at times, take the job.”

And so she did.

By June 2006, Davis was assistant CRS director and became CRS director by Halloween of that same year.

Prayer and a commitment to using the very talented staff around her to learn more about and enhance CRS programs and policies helped Davis become a more-effective leader. Among her proudest accomplishments as CRS director is the continued development of unique medical and evaluation clinics and the ongoing transformation of CHARMS (CRS’ electronic records system) into a complete electronic health record.

Davis said she is particularly gratified by the fact that CRS’ successes have been a team effort.

“That is one of the things I am proudest of. When we decide to make changes, it may start with an idea from the field or it may start with an idea here in the State Office,” she said. “Then, as the new idea or change develops, we get periodic feedback from local and State Office staff before a final decision is made. That way, we don’t have a lot of pushback because we didn’t get enough input. I’ve been really, really proud of the way we have worked together. I could not ask for a better staff in the State Office or out in the field.”

Davis said she is also pleased with the impact her career with CRS has had on her personal life. She said she has seen herself grow as a leader and has learned a lot from people, through people, and about people.

Davis said life after ADRS will include spending more time with her family and serving at Church of the Highlands, where she is a member.  She said there are also several home projects she’d like to tackle.

In a recent interview, she summed up all the great memories and accomplishments of her career into one statement: “It has been a wonderful journey.”

As the retirement coffee came to an end, Davis thanked her coworkers for helping her grow into a leadership role and left them with a piece of advice.

“Share your gifts and talents, develop your resources, and expand upon your experiences,” she said. “May you continue to do the things that I frequently remind CRS staff to do in the face of good times as well as in the face of adversity: Keep your focus on the lives of clients and families so that you can make a difference in their world.”

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