Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 10.4.07

What About Bob?
Dritz steps down after 25 years at White Bird Clinic

After 25 years as clinic coordinator, Bob Dritz has retired from White Bird Clinic. When he began, White Bird was a small, eccentric operation providing services on a shoe-string budget and relying heavily on volunteers. A quarter of a century later, White Bird is a medium-sized eccentric agency helping the community through nine human service programs. We now have more (but still inadequate) funding, many more paid staff and more volunteers.

Bob Dritz mans the barbecue at the Teddy Bear Picnic

Bob has been a major contributor to White Bird’s becoming a key social service provider in Lane County. He has helped develop, shape and guide our programs and services. He helped us create many interesting and unique partnerships, always leading to more assistance to more people in need. Bob was also much in demand as a participant in broader community planning efforts in human services, whether related to White Bird or not, where his experience and insights invariably improved the final plan. Both White Bird and the wider community will certainly miss his contributions.

So, one of the things this means is that White Bird Clinic is now looking for a new clinic coordinator. The job is not an easy one, what with overwork and underpay. Plus working at White Bird is not for the faint of heart. One needs experience, intelligence, talent, flexibility, patience, strong communication skills and a sense of humor.

Part of what is challenging is becoming knowledgeable about our nine service programs, which include medical, dental, counseling and outpatient alcohol and drug treatment. We are also the county’s 24-hour crisis program and the human service information and referral service. We run the homeless health care project, provide assistance in applying for social security benefits and operate the 911-dispatched CAHOOTS team program.

Then there are the other projects which include acupuncture detox, mental health work at Buckley, INFORM, PATH, IMPACT, ROCK MED, the WHALES, the HELP book, and others. Through these programs White Bird responds to more than 70,000 contacts annually, where we either help people through direct service or steer them to folks who can.


Another unique element is that we remain a collective, meaning that we have come together to share in a common mission, which is to serve and teach, and we choose to have a horizontal power structure. No individual has greater authority than any other, requiring a high level of cooperation and communication in order for us to get things done. From personal experience, I can report that being an administrator in a collective where I have lots of responsibility without the usual accompanying power can be an interesting challenge.

As if that weren’t hard enough, White Bird uses the decision-making process called consensus, which means that when the group is faced with a question, the staff meeting needs to reach agreement before the answer is available. The boss (there isn’t one) does not get to say, “’cause I say so.”

After all that, you might ask, “Why would anyone want to join this wacky place?” Well, the answer is long and complicated. It would include: being a small part of doing important work at a time when this work must be done; the satisfaction of good decisions coming from a good, participatory process; the fun in working with a group of quite amazing people; and the pride of being able to say that you worked at White Bird.

Chuck Gerard is interim clinic coordinator at White Bird Clinic,

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