Over the last 14 months, Bob Leek has come to understand the Herculean effort it takes to keep the County operating smoothly as the interim Department of County Assets Director.
Whether he’s responding to a heating and cooling issue in a County jail, overseeing the operations of the County’s entire fleet of vehicles, or championing the County’s transition to Workday, Leek is accountable for a massive breadth of responsibilities.
“The beneficiary is the public,” Leek said. “Without the Department of County Assets, we can’t deliver services to the public. My passion is around preventing problems for case workers and others to be able to do what they do, by doing a great job at what our organization does.”
On Thursday, the Board of County Commissioners named Leek permanent DCA Director. The appointment came after a dizzying six years in which Leek helped lead the County through Multco Align, replace the county’s finance and HR functions under SAP with Workday, complete the Gladys McCoy Health Department Headquarters project, procure property for the County’s new downtown Mental Health Resource Center, and expand the County’s shelter system. And that’s just to name a few accomplishments.
Speaking of Leek and Erika Preuitt, who was also appointed to a permanent role as Department of Community Justice Director Thursday, Chair Deborah Kafoury commended both leaders for their commitment to the County’s work.
“It takes a very special person to take up the calling of being in public service,” Chair Kafoury said. “You have my complete trust and appreciation and I look forward to what we’re going to be able to do together.”
Leek’s role is the culmination of a 25-year career, most of which has involved driving innovation in the private and nonprofit sectors. Prior to his role as interim director of County Assets, he served as Deputy Chief Information Officer from August 2013 to January 2017. He has also worked in technology and operations leadership roles at Kaiser Permanente, Banfield the Pet Hospital, and Egghead during the dot-com boom.
“I do have to say how proud and thankful I am to step into this role here at the County,” Leek said Thursday. “I recognize the gravity of the work we do in the Department of County Assets. Our staff shows up every day to try and make sure that the services we can deliver to the County, residents to visitors of the County, can get done.”
Throughout his career, Leek said he’s been drawn to a service-oriented management style. As a leader, he said his goal is to cultivate trust and belonging among his team. He traces that value to his early experience as a first-generation immigrant, where he had to depend on others while navigating a new world.
“Having to depend on others was instilled in me early on,” he said. “Being an immigrant from the Netherlands, growing up in a small town in the Appalachian Mountains, I learned English by walking around with a friend and him pointing at things saying, ‘this is the word for that.’ My ability to speak English was the result of somebody developing a trust and a relationship.”
Leek said he’s carried that memory throughout his whole life. As DCA Director, he’s eager to serve those who depend on his department to do their jobs.
“Think about a nurse, a behavioral health professional, or a case worker or a sheriff’s deputy. All of those roles depend on facilities and technologies in order for them to be successful,” Leek said. “I want to lead and develop an organization that enables people to do their great work.”
In his role at the County, Leek continues to apply lessons learned in the private sector. He’s always looking for opportunities to explore new technologies, solve problems, and make processes more efficient.
“I’m not interested in the 100 reasons why we might not be able to do things,” he said. “I’m in tune to the 10 things we need to be successful. What are the conditions for success? I have been striving for leadership roles where I have the ability to remove barriers but also the opportunity to put those 10 things in place.”
Looking ahead, Leek sees many developments that will influence how staff do their jobs. Those include finishes to large capital projects like the Central Courthouse, upgrades to current facilities, and more efforts to support sheltering and housing for vulnerable residents.
He’s also preparing for new challenges caused by the continuous evolution of technology, protecting the County from cyber crime and developing a strategy for the County’s fleet of vehicles while also fulfilling the County’s sustainability mission.
Amidst those changes, Leek looks forward to “keeping the lights on” at the County while also pushing the organization to think in new and creative ways.
“There are a lot of investments that we’re going to be making over the next 20 years that are intended to benefit the work that we do,” Leek said. “I want County employees to be able to depend on us because that’s what we’re here for.”
When Leek isn’t at work, he enjoys spending time with his wife of 23 years, Heather, and his three children, Sophia, Coulter and Kees. As a father and husband, he’s learned to turn his full attention to himself and his family when he’s at home, so he can bring his best self to the office when it’s time to work. His hobbies include playing golf and hosting Texas hold ‘em parties at home.
Facing his next opportunity, Leek said he’s excited to build on the momentum he’s developed over his 14 months in the interim role.
“I like what we do,” he said. “It gets me out of bed and inspires me to go to work every day. And it’s because of the people I work with and the mission we have and the role that needs to get done.”