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Lokuta to Leave ODP
March 28, 2014

Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) Deputy Secretary Fred Lokuta is leaving his job with the Department of Public Welfare. Below is his farewell message to the system he has served for 30 years.

 Dear Friends,

As you may have heard, Friday April 11, 2014, will be my last day as Deputy Secretary for the Office of Developmental Programs. Although it has been 30 years since I began my career with the Department, it seems like only yesterday. I can honestly say that I have cherished each and every day that I have worked for the Commonwealth. As I look back and reflect on the vast array of experiences and positions that I have held, I can’t help focusing on my role as a direct support professional that had enabled me to build a solid foundation on which to grow, understand and develop. I vividly remember the names and the faces of the men and women I supported – Joe, Nancy, Teddy, Albert, Jeanie, JoAnn, Walter, Stephen, and my favorite curmudgeon, Elmer. They have all since passed away but their impact on a young man who was just starting out on a life journey will never fade. One day after “Joe” experienced some disappointment over a family visit that didn’t happen, he said to me, “I wish I was never born.”  He went on to tell me that no one cares about him and he didn’t want to go on. This single experience has stayed with me all these years. To me, there is nothing worse than feeling like you don’t matter – that you are not included – that you are alone. I would guess that everyone, at some point, feels some sense of this but life opportunities and circumstances change and that feeling fades away. I often ask myself do these same life changing opportunities exist for all people with an intellectual/developmental disability?  I guess that those of us who have dedicated our life to supporting people with disabilities do just that – create life changing opportunities. 

“Did I/we make a difference?”  A question often asked as a career comes to an end. I guess that’s not for me to judge but I do look at what a profound difference others have made in my life – especially people with Intellectual disabilities. To me, they ask very little – only to be acknowledged, accepted and to love and be loved. In return, they teach those of us who are fortunate to be part of their life, what’s really important. They teach us to be thankful for the small things and to never take life for granted. They teach us what true friendship means. They teach us that it’s not about the material wealth we acquire – it’s about how we consider and care about others.

I also will remain grateful for the many wonderful and dedicated people who I have had the honor of working with over the years. Although our system in Pennsylvania is massive and at times, complicated, all of you help to keep it moving forward. As Deputy Secretary, I am more convinced than ever that Pennsylvania’s services and supports are second to none.  Our self-advocates, families,  provider network, county programs, supports coordination services, advocacy organizations and our state government, all work together for the purpose of creating “life changing opportunities”. Although we are not perfect, we need to look at all the good that occurs each and every day. 

In the bigger picture, we are so fortunate to have a Department of Public Welfare Secretary, Beverly Mackereth, who truly cares about people and the services they receive. It has been a privilege of mine to get to know and work with Secretary Mackereth this past year. I can tell you that she has endless energy, credibility and understanding of very complex systems with a true focus on back to basics in terms of government roles and responsibilities throughout the Department. I recently thought about our role in terms of this quote, “government can’t be everything to everyone but we (government) must be all that we can be.”   Secretary Mackereth emphasizes responsiveness, accountability and honesty. 

As my government career comes to an end, I wish to thank all of you for your years of support, encouragement, partnership, advice and understanding. I will never forget this experience and you have all made a difference in the lives of others – especially mine. Kimberly Ann would be proud. 

With Much Humility and Sincerity,

Fred C. Lokuta

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