Meet Timothy Feeley, deputy secretary at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Every other month, Medical News catches up with a healthcare leader in our state for a special feature where they answer questions about their interests outside of work, favorite pieces of advice and healthcare issues that ruffle their feathers most.
Hometown: Crestwood, Kentucky
Family: Married for 34 years to Dr. Sue Feeley, a dentist in private practice. Four adult children: Kate, Mary, Peggy and Jack.
Hobbies: Attending live theatre (Actors Theatre) and sporting events (UofL football and Bats baseball).
Currently reading: Just finished Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (Harper, 2016) by J.D. Vance and ready to start Yanks: The Epic Story of the American Army in World War I (The Free Press, 2001) by John S.D. Eisenhower.
Medical News: Why did you take on this role? What attracted you to it?
Timothy Feeley: After more than ten years as a Family Court judge, I was asked by Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson to become part of her team at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to oversee social service programs statewide. Although I greatly enjoyed my prior position, I saw this as an opportunity to make a difference on a macro level for the well-being of Kentucky families and children.
MN: What do you hope to accomplish while in this position?
TF: There is so much that needs to be done to improve services statewide. Our guardianship program is underfunded and overtaxed. The opioid crisis requires us to come up with effective and innovative responses through our public health and behavioral health departments. I am working on these and other issues.
My primary focus remains the task assigned by Governor Matt Bevin to review and improve our foster care and adoptions policies and statutes. We hope to make Kentucky the most welcoming and caring state in the nation for all children.
MN: What advice would you give to someone just starting out trying to do what you are doing?
TF: I have had the opportunity to have several fascinating and rewarding jobs in my lifetime. I have been an Army officer, an assistant U.S. attorney, a state representative and a Family Court judge. I would advise anyone, as I have my own children, to follow your passions and not turn down opportunities that interest you. If you wake up dreading the day, find a new avocation.
MN: What were some early leadership lessons for you?
TF: Early in my Army days, I had a Green Beret first sergeant who critiqued my leadership skills. “Feeley,” he said, “Don’t play poker. You wear your emotions too openly. If you care about something, you handle it well. If you don’t care, you can’t fake it.” As simple as that sounds, it has helped to guide my attempts at leadership.
MN: Where do you do your best thinking?
TF: After dinner on my nightly dog walk. I do two miles around a neighbor’s hayfield. It lets me reflect on the day, and the challenges ahead.