By Steve Klamkin WPRO News
Womazetta Jones says she is one of just two people by that name.
As she was introduced by Governor Gina Raimondo Wednesday to become Rhode Island’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Jones, a Mississippi native explained her family and another family have each given one person in each generation the unusual name, dating back to the time of slavery.
“I entered kindergarten and had the task of learning how to spell it,” Jones said in an announcement at the Providence Community Health Center.
She is currently Director of Human Services for Ramsey County, Minnesota, which includes the city of St. Paul, and has a population of just over 500,000 or about half the population of Rhode Island.
She was chosen by Raimondo to head the sprawling state agency, and Jones says she is undeterred by taking over the UHIP human services computer system, which has had problems since its inception.
“It did not scare me away, it made me want to be here even more so, because I’ve seen the commitment and work, honesty and transparency put in place to address that when it rose to where it did, and to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” said Jones.
“It’s not near the place and point that we need it to be at, but we have a fantastic team together to help us manage it and get it together,” she said.
Pending approval by the state Senate, Jones, 50, intends to begin work in late July, and is already moving to Providence with her family, which includes two college-age daughters and a son, who will attend high school here.
Raimondo took the opportunity to tick off improvements in the human services area on her watch, and to charge Jones with doing even more.
“Today, we pay food stamps faster than almost all of our neighbors. We pay benefits on time, with more ease than almost anyone. Go to the DHS (Department of Human Services) field office on the first of the month. It’s empty. There’s no lines. It’s not empty, the lines are flowing, there’s no lines. So again, great credit to this team. Now, it’s up to you to take us to the next level,” Raimondo said, turning to Jones.