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From the Planetarium to Homelessness Plans, Kerry Steadman Retires from Salt Lake County with 40+ Years of Service

Posted By Regional Development
December 17, 2020

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In 1976, Kerry Steadman started a graduate internship with Salt Lake County social services, under the direction of Karen Shepherd, earning about $250 a month.

It spurred a celebrated 40+ year career in public service to Salt Lake County residents, a rare achievement.

Across those five decades, Kerry served in appointed and merit positions, including Director of the Hansen (now Clark) Planetarium, Associate Director of Administrative Services, Commission Staff Manager, Deputy Auditor, Associate Director of Human Services, Director of Human Services, and Associate Director of Aging Services.

He also worked several years for the State of Utah as Director of the State Department of Human Services, but returned to the County following that role.

For the past 15 years, Kerry has focused on housing and homelessness as Associate Director of Housing and Community Development. The challenges for this population, whose needs have swelled in recent years, has been deeply felt by Kerry. A particular moment stands out to him from more than a decade ago, although it could have appeared in 2020.

“I was reading the paper one day and read a Want Ad from a mother in the housing section. She was looking for an apartment for her daughter,” Kerry said.

‘Daughter looking for apt, needs to live downtown. Low income, doesn’t have much money and had struggles in life, but she is worth saving and I need some help. She can be fixed, she’s not a lost cause.’

“That struck me, a mother publicly advertising in the Want Ad section needing some help for her daughter. There are people out there in that boat and we need to help them. Those people, we need to remember they are in situations that are tough.”

Finding solutions to challenging issues like housing stability and homelessness was made a little bit easier, because, Kerry emphasized he always found people in local government who had a passion for what they did and a vision that allowed them to deliver services in such a way that they were making a positive impact on residents of Salt Lake County.

“There were always dedicated, hard working people day in and day out.”

For newer public employees, Kerry’s advice is to stop and listen -- and be willing to take a risk. Some might be asked to do a project that’s outside your comfort zone; Kerry had that moment when asked to direct the Planetarium.

“I told them I don’t even know if I can name the planets in order,” Kerry said. “But you learn to get out of your comfort zone and realize you can learn a lot of different things. Working on a tough project and everyone’s holding back? Jump in! You learn a lot and meet a lot of people. You’ve got the support of others; you’re not a lone ranger.”

What’s in retirement for Kerry? Likely continued service in the community on boards or volunteering. He especially looks forward to spending more time with his family of 10 kids, 23 grandkids, and one great-grand kid.