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Deike exits, says VA office has grown beyond one person

Deike exits, says VA office has grown beyond one person
Maria Deike, Floyd County Veterans Affairs director, talks at a Veterans Day program at Charles City High School.
Press file photo by Bob Steenson
By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

Friday this week will be Maria Deike’s last day as executive director of the Floyd County VA.

“There are a lot of positive things that have come the last five years,” Deike said. “I’m glad to have gotten the opportunity to work here, I’ve really appreciated that. I’ve gotten to know a lot of veterans and their families.”

Deike is leaving to accept a similar position in Cerro Gordo County, where she will start on June 1. Her letter of resignation was presented to the Floyd County Board of Supervisors last week, and Deike shared some parting advice with the board.

The office “needs not only a director willing to put the time in, but the backing of the chain of command to protect the representative when you clearly see a gradual and steady distress,” she wrote.

The county Veterans Affairs Office assists eligible veterans applying for compensation and pension programs designed to assist veterans and their dependents. The office also operates a transportation service to VA medical facilities and the county’s Veterans Assistance program, which helps with emergency basic needs.

Deike said the office has grown substantially in her time here.

“It’s not a one-person office anymore,” Deike said. “It is not fair to be hired for one county, and expected to represent two with no pay accommodations, overtime, comp time or incentives to do so.”

Deike said that neighboring Chickasaw County has gone through three VA directors in five years, and Floyd County has picked up the slack.

“We’ve been given a lot of their veterans, and taken a lot of responsibilities within their county,” she said. “I’ve never had an issue doing the work. I’ll work 80 hours a week if I have to — just pay me for the work I do.”

Deike said she has never received any extra pay for her service, and although she doesn’t expect Floyd County to pay for another county’s service, they could have shared her between the two counties and each county paid her separately.

When Deike started in Floyd County in September of 2014, it was the first time in 20 years the office was without a secretary. It had been redesigned to be a one-person office, she said.

“That’s fine and dandy, but our office grew to assisting another county, it grew to a bigger and better organization,” she said. “The responsibilities of the office grew. If they would’ve established a game plan of having a secretarial service in this office, I really think things wouldn’t be as crucial as they are right now.”

Upon Deike’s arrival in Floyd County, the county became a Home Base Iowa County, which connects Iowa businesses with qualified veterans and their spouses looking for career opportunities. The program also provides resources to help connect veterans and their families with education and in transitioning to a new community.

“Our office is good,” she said. “I’m aware that it isn’t great, because we need more support in our office, but we could be great here.”

Since her arrival, Floyd County has increased the number of volunteer van drivers from five to 18, has become involved with the Quilts of Valor program, the Elks’ Vets in Need program, and several other fundraising and veteran support and outreach programs.

“I will miss my fellow veterans, and my dear volunteers whom I have grown so much from,” Deike said. “Our volunteers made this office bloom.”

Deike said the office has worked closely with Floyd County Social Services, the Floyd County Veterans Memorial committee, the Family Alliance for Veterans of America (FAVA), local mechanics and construction companies for the Iowa Trust Fund grants, the USDA, The American Legion Auxiliaries, Toys for Tots, local churches, and the Charles City Chamber of Commerce, among many others.

“There are support systems in place now that weren’t there before,” Deike said. “It’s not very realistic to have a one-person office in this county. It’s not fair to the veterans when that office door is closed because one person can’t be in two places at once.”

The Floyd County Veterans Affairs Commission is now accepting applications for Deike’s replacement, and Deike said the office “needs to stay full time, and by Iowa State Code it fits their definition to stay full time.”

“What I’m really concerned about is, this office is busy when you know what you’re doing,” Deike said. “It’s going to be busier yet when they get someone new in this office and they have no idea — they’re trying to learn and the phone is ringing.”

Deike grew up in the Plainfield area, a 1999 graduate of Nashua-Plainfield High School. She moved back to the area to be closer to family as she raises her son, now 15. Deike said that her greatest achievement is being a single mother. She said she will continue to reside in Floyd County, at her home near Roseville in the RRMR School District, where her son attends school.

She served in the Army from 2002 to 2005 and the Iowa National Guard from 2006 to 2012. She was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, and deployed in Iraq in 2003-04. She left the guard as a sergeant in 2013.

After leaving the service, Deike earned her master’s degree with an emphasis on mental health administration from the University of the Rockies in Colorado. She said she sought a position in which she could help soldiers transition back to civilian life, and landed in Floyd County.

“I have always taken pride in what our office has endured, overcome and has progressed into,” she said. “What an awesome transformation.”

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