2018 HR Excellence Awards: Lifetime Achievement

Melissa Kossler Dutton
Clare Long

Lifetime Achievement recognizes a longtime or retired HR professional who has demonstrated exceptional leadership, knowledge, decision-making skills and commitment.

When Clare Long received her law degree 41 years ago, she never imagined it would propel her into a career in human resources. However, her problem-solving skills and helpful nature got the attention of an early boss, who could see how the field played to her strengths.

Her first HR role—where she felt that the department often was “putting up nothing but roadblocks” that prevented people from accomplishing their goals—shaped her approach to the work. She concentrated on improving processes so managers could focus on completing tasks and supporting their people.

“That's been a guiding light in my career,” says Long, who's now the director of human resources for the Ohio Housing Finance Agency. She's held HR roles in several state of Ohio departments, including administrative services and commerce.

Long's vast experience with state government and her willingness to share her knowledge with others have benefited the Ohio Housing Finance Agency. Since joining the agency six years ago, she has focused on improving its culture while also implementing procedures to help employees succeed, says OHFA Executive Director Sean Thomas. Coworkers are drawn to her because of her “crystal-clear visioning” and “can-do attitude,” Thomas says.

“She is the person whom people seek out for advice and consultation,” he says. “Her ability to promote individual respect, dignity and integrity at work makes her a one-of-a- kind leader.”

She has helped develop an onboarding process for new employees, addressed succession planning, focused on employee professional development and implemented a new employee performance evaluation system—which has served as a model for other state agencies, Thomas says.

“The workplace culture at OHFA was improving when Clare arrived six years ago, but through her efforts, we have continued to build upon this early work,” he says. “Clare's influence on these achievements cannot be overstated, and she has played a significant part in the agency's success.”

Long says she likes to focus on developing policies that help employees better understand their jobs and the expectations that go with them. “People want to know what they're supposed to do,” she says. “We make sure to set clear goals and hold employees accountable.”

Long also regularly mentors other HR employees and eagerly helps managers who are trying to improve their performances, Thomas says. She runs a monthly meeting for mid-level managers in which she shares HR and leadership insights and answers questions, Thomas says. “She really loves doing that,” he says. “She's always been a great mentor.”

The team at OHFA has been particularly exciting to work with because it's such a mission-driven organization, Long says. OHFA oversees and directs programs and operations that help increase the availability of affordable housing opportunities in the state.

“The people around me are passionate about what they do,” she says. “It's a pleasure to work around people who have that passion.”

It's also inspiring, says Long, who tries to look for ways to make the rest of staff more successful. “I love my job,” she says. “I love the challenge of finding ways that human resources can assist the agency with accomplishing its mission.”

As she begins to think about retiring from the state, Long has helped Thomas and others in the agency with long-term planning. She has created manuals and policies designed to help the team and her successor keep the organization moving forward. Thomas calls her work an “HR blueprint for the future.”

Helping prepare the agency and its workforce for the future seems like the right way to recognize the state for providing her with such a rich and rewarding career, Long says. “It's a great opportunity to pay it forward to all the people who helped me. I always says no one has had a better career in state government than Clare Long.”

Melissa Kossler Dutton is a freelance writer.