Steve Simpson, Cindy Pitts retire from ADRS

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Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services Attorney Steve Simpson recently celebrated his retirement after more than 20 years of service to the department and more than 30 to the state.

Saying goodbye was bittersweet for Simpson, who is a 1975 graduate of Sidney Lanier High School and lifelong Montgomery resident. Simpson left Montgomery briefly to earn a bachelor’s degree in English from Auburn University and his jurist doctorate from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1982 before returning to the capital city to launch his career.

He began his legal career as a Deputy District Attorney with the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office for two years before entering into private practice.

ADRS is often referred to as the “Rehab Family,” so it is fitting that Simpson came to the department in the interest of his own family. After his wife gave birth to their third child, she suggested that Simpson, who was in private practice as a criminal defense lawyer, pursue a position with the state to secure better benefits and fewer hours. Simpson said he wisely took his wife’s advice.

“I chose to maintain marital accord and started applying for state jobs,” he said.

He was initially offered a position focusing on child support litigation at the Alabama Department of Human Resources, but experience in that area assured Simpson this was not the career path he desired. The job hunt did, however, open other doors.

“I must have impressed the DHR Chief Legal Counsel, because within a month he offered me an Assistant Attorney General position prosecuting welfare fraud cases which I accepted in September of 1988,” he said. “I worked for DHR for 6 ½ years handling welfare fraud criminal cases, civil trial and appellate litigation, and some administrative proceedings.”

Part of his job at DHR included reviewing proposed bills in the Alabama Legislature and writing brief summaries of what these proposed laws would do. In 1994, Simpson reviewed a bill that would create the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services by transferring a number of programs that were then housed in the Division of Rehabilitation Services of the Alabama State Department of Education.

“I remember thinking at the time that a brand-new state agency would need to hire a lawyer, but due to the stress and pressure of my enormous caseload at DHR, I promptly forgot about it,” he said.

In March of 1995, Simpson received a call from the husband of one of ADRS Commissioner Lamona Lucas’ secretaries he had met a few times. The caller strongly suggested that he submit a resume to fill their vacancy. Simpson said he initially had doubts about making the move.

“I hesitated at first, because I knew very little about ADRS except that they had hired Rob Weinberg and I thought at the time that it might be a difficult agency to represent,” he said. “Eventually, I sent my resume, was interviewed, and was hired to represent ADRS on April 1, 1995.”

Joining the Rehab family gave Simpson the opportunity to learn about many areas of law that he had little or no experience with before 1995. This experience ranged from dealing with difficult employees to representing ADRS in state courts, all three of the United States District Courts in Alabama, and the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.

“I have handled many administrative proceedings before Impartial Hearing Officers of ADRS, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Alabama State Personnel Board, and the Alabama Medicaid Agency and before arbitration panels appointed by the United States Department of Education,” he said. “The most memorable situations are those times when I got to stand before these judges and other tribunals and state that I was the Assistant Attorney General representing ADRS. I have always enjoyed the challenge of presenting and arguing cases and have always considered it a great honor that I had the opportunity to represent ADRS.”

There have been many rewarding moments during his tenure with the department, Simpson said.

“I am particularly proud of some of the help I have been able to render to the impressive successes of the Business Enterprise Program for the blind,” he said. “Assisting BEP to obtain lucrative contracts to operate Federal cafeterias allowed me to learn about Federal contracting. Being involved with the early years of Early Intervention and helping Children’s Rehabilitation Service to navigate the many changes in healthcare law that we have seen since 1995 has been satisfying.”

Of course, behind every great attorney is a great support system. Simpson said he has bad the best of the best with ADRS. He joked that Cindy Pitts’ legacy might live much longer than his own with the department.

“I could not have been successful without the assistance of Ms. Tina Howell and Ms. Cindy Pitts, the two fine paralegals that I supervised at ADRS,” he said. “Cindy worked much harder than me to keep the legal office running smoothly. I think people will miss her and her dedication to ADRS for much longer than they will miss me. In a few years, people will find it hard to remember my name, but I think everyone will remember Cindy for much longer.”

The daily interaction with his ADRS coworkers will be missed, but Simpson said he is excited about his retirement plans. He and his wife will soon move to Asheville, N.C. to enjoy the cool mountain breezes and see many gridiron contests featuring what he referred to as the “Best Football Team in the History of the Universe, the Fighting Irish of the University of Notre Dame.”

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