Impacting the entire school district

August 15, 2018 Staff Writer

All school leadership positions bear important responsibilities. But there is one position that touches on all other positions and can have a huge impact on entire districts – that of the human resources leader.

One of the best of these is Steve Hovey, Chief Personnel Officer/Associate Superintendent with Riverside County Office of Education. For his outstanding contributions to his job, Hovey has been named ACSA’s 2018 Personnel/Human Resources Administrator of the Year.

Hovey noted he never set out to become an administrator. As a teacher, he was talked into taking a test to qualify for an Administrative Services Credential by his then principal.

“After I passed the test, I think they decided to stop allowing it,” Hovey joked. “Either my principal saw some potential in me that I did not recognize, or he thought it was a good way to get me out of his school. After that, each step of advancement was largely due to a colleague’s encouragement, more than any great ambition on my part.”

But it all ended up for the good, as Hovey discovered it fit in well with his desire to take each position he has ever held and use it as an opportunity to do meaningful work. He always found joy in doing his job, rather than in seeking the next one to be happy.

This attitude aligns with Hovey’s attitude of viewing work not as a source of inspiration, but as an obligation, in the best sense of the word.

“(I feel) obligated in the sense that if I am going to occupy the job, I have to give it my best every day,” Hovey said. “If I can’t commit to that, then I should let someone else who will do that have the job. The work is that important. Having spent my first decade in education serving students with disabilities, I continue to feel that my commitment is in service of students, no matter how indirectly.”

Even with a standout career, Hovey can see the big picture, where he is part of a bigger whole, a viewpoint that surely serves him well in human resources.

“Like the pixels in a screen, I have not created the picture; I have added to it to enhance, brighten, and complete it,” Hovey said. “As I have continued to grow as a leader, I believe that I have contributed in various ways with sharing my accumulated knowledge, experience, perspective and even my humor. Going forward, I hope to leave things better than they would have been without me, and along with the dots added by others, it will be a better picture.”

Hovey has taken full advantage of his ACSA membership to help him grow in leadership abilities. He cited the ability to learn – and lead – at such events as the Personnel Academy, Personnel Institutes, Negotiators’ Symposiums, charter professional development events, and Leadership Summits. He said these have all been instrumental in his development as an educational leader and human resources professional.

In addition, Hovey has served as a charter and region officer and president, participated on the Human Resources Council, Legislative Policy Committee, and charter and region boards, all of which he cites as an opportunity to give back to the profession.

Leadership is certainly a popular issue in the business and education areas, and Hovey noted that it’s difficult to determine what innovative leadership is when there are more than 60,000 books published with the word “leadership” in the title.

“Nonetheless, at the Riverside County Office of Education, under the leadership of Dr. Judy White, we are emphasizing ‘Servant Leadership,’ which flips the traditional view of an organizational structure upside down,” Hovey said. “Servant leaders conduct themselves in ways that support and empower their employees, rather than the other way around. Thus, Servant Leadership is consistent with certain leadership principles espoused by Abraham Lincoln.

“Though it is not true that Abe and I were classmates,” Hovey joked, “I do value the following two Lincoln principles: ‘Give subordinates a fair chance with equal freedom and opportunity for success’ and ‘When you make it to the top, turn and reach down for the person behind you.’  Particularly at this point in my career, I strive to behave in accordance with those principles.”

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