After 20 years, Schoharie County Head Start and its associated programs are getting a new executive director.
Mary Beth Purcell, who has a long career in government and working with children, is taking over from Judy McLaughlin, who is retiring February 28.
"The agency will be left in great hands," Ms. McLaughlin said.
"They have a lovely person who's really tied into what's going on in early childhood."
Ms. Purcell, 60, started her career as a welfare examiner with the Albany County Department of Social Services.
She later worked with the state Office of Mental Health, the Governor's Division of the Budget and the Public Employees Relations Board.
Her passions are helping people and working in education, Ms. Purcell said.
To that end, she served on the North Colonie school board for 15 years and served two terms on the Capital Region BOCES board.
It was during her time with BOCES that she became familiar with Schoharie County.
"I loved coming down here," Ms. Purcell said. "I saw that in Cobleskill, Schoharie, Sharon Springs, Middleburgh. . .people were committed to education.
"They were focused on how they could serve the community with limited resources. I was impressed. It was really all about service."
Ms. Purcell realized early--during her time with Albany County Social Services--how important education was, especially to the needy.
"I saw education as a vehicle to successfully move out of poverty," she said.
Ms. Purcell described her talents as a leader, facilitator, and coordinator with staff, families and children.
Showing dedication to her new position, Ms. Purcell moved from the Capital District to Cobleskill.
In anticipation of coming to Head Start, she also attended holiday events around the county to get a feel for the area.
"I want to be a part of the community," Ms. Purcell said. "I felt that I couldn't work here and live someplace else."
Ms. Purcell's formal title is executive director of the Schoharie County Child Development Council.
Although the public translates that title to Head Start director, Ms. Purcell will also oversee other Council programs: Early Head Start, Lark Street Child Care and Universal Pre-K for two local school districts.
Those programs demand a strong relationship between the executive director and the Council.
"I see myself having a lot of liaison with the board and decision-makers," Ms. Purcell said.
"It's an exciting time. There's been great stewardship here on the part of the board."
Having started last Monday, Ms. Purcell is already settling in.
"I'm committed to the staff and committed to the community," she said. "They have a great motto here, 'Kids First.' That's what we're all about."