Susan Dore Lamb has spent most of her life involved with public policy, starting at age 13 when she became an anti-war activist.
After many years in various public and nonprofit positions, including 10 years as an elected member of the Maine House of Representatives, Lamb became the new executive director of the NASW Maine Chapter in October.
“I applied for the job because it combined the administrative skills that I had with regard to running a nonprofit and my advocacy skills that I learned in lobbying,” she said. “I was really interested in this position because when I reflected on my background, it was clear that I was happiest when I was representing vulnerable populations.”
Lamb is among several new NASW chapter executive directors who are being profiled in a series running in the NASW News.
Lamb said Maine may have a small population, but she considers that a blessing in disguise since “it is relatively easy to either have access to the movers and shakers or be one of them.”
Maine’s rural atmosphere also comes in handy for the state’s social workers: They know just who to call to help a client with specific needs. “We miss some of the cultural opportunities of big cities, but relationships are deeper when the pool is smaller,” she said.
Lamb previously served as executive director of the Child Abuse Prevention Council of York County, Maine. She was responsible for the overall management of the council that served 10,000 people annually.
While serving in the state legislature she was a leader in foster care legislation, mental health insurance reform and tax reform.
She also received many awards, including the American Psychiatric Association’s Distinguished Legislator Award in 1996 and the NASW Maine Chapter’s Legislator of the Year Award the same year.
After holding public office, Lamb became a senior legislative adviser with the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill where she worked on mental health parity legislation in different states.
“I did a lot of traveling and we got (mental health) parity bills passed in 36 states in four years,” she said.
Lamb said she hopes to rebuild NASW membership interest in Maine and revitalize the chapter’s annual conferences by boosting marketing and table sponsorships.
Lamb, who has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Maine, said social workers do not need her to teach them to be advocates for themselves, but she believes she can help social workers become better supporters for their clients in the public arena.
She is looking at the glass as half full when it comes to dealing with Maine lawmakers who are attempting to initiate major welfare reform this year.
“The good news about bad times is that it reinvigorates your base as people come to face the challenges to their core beliefs,” Lamb said.
“We’ve been very successful so far in having a good dialogue with the more moderate wing of the Republican legislature,” she added, “but only time will tell if they work to modify some of the changes in public policy that are being put forth.”