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Becky Secore leaves a legacy of partnerships as she retires from Beltrami County

After nine years, Becky Secore has retired from her position as Director of Health and Human Services for Beltrami County, a role she used to build partnerships and create change.

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Becky Secore
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — Becky Secore never imagined herself working in mental health or human services, at least not originally.

When she first started college, she thought she would wind up in business.

Now, over three decades later, she’s retiring as Beltrami County’s Director of Health and Human Services and is leaving behind a legacy of forging partnerships and improving access to mental health services across the region.

“My work at the county has been a major part of my life for the last almost 10 years,” Secore shared. “I’m retiring, and it feels exciting and sad all at the same time.”

Before her last day on Jan. 3, Secore worked tirelessly to improve county services and strengthen relationships with the area’s different partners.

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From her collaborative initiatives with Red Lake Nation to working with Sanford Health in the creation of the new Behavioral Health Crisis Center, Secore has a long list of accomplishments from her time at the county and was recently recognized with a Tribute Award from Bemidji's Women United.

Five local women leaders were honored at the sixth annual Women United Tribute Awards on Thursday, which highlighted the importance of recognizing current and emerging leaders.

Each of these accomplishments, however, Secore emphasized would not have been possible without the hard work of different partners.

“It takes a whole bunch of people to make something work,” Secore said. “Those are the kind of things that I’m most proud of, where those partnerships came together and something good happened.”

It’s those relationships that Secore has built that she’ll miss the most.

“I’ve been honored to work with so many amazing people,” she added, “that’s been a blessing. I’m excited for new adventures, but I’m sad to leave all of these great people.”

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Women United Tribute Award recipients, from left, Kay Mack, Natasha Kingbird, Sarah Guida, Becky Secore and Kayla Winkler, pose with their awards on Oct. 27, 2022, during a Women United Tribute Award breakfast at BSU’s Beaux Arts Ballroom.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Starting out

Raised in Mitchell, S.D., Secore attended Dakota Wesleyan University for her undergraduate degree, originally studying business until her interests took her down a different path.

“I started out going for my business degree,” Secore shared, “but I really liked the human services and psychology courses, and it kind of drew me in that direction.”

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It wasn’t until she had her first experience working in the field of mental health, however, that Secore knew she’d made the right decision.

“My internship was at a residential treatment for girls, and that’s kind of what clinched it,” she explained. “Just going and listening at that program, with these young ladies who had been sexually abused, it was quite an eye-opening experience.”

Working with those young women and their families cemented the direction that Secore would take in her life and shaped her perspective moving forward.

“That (experience) was what led me to the family therapy field,” Secore shared. “It made me realize how important it was to look at the big systems, the family, the environment, and how to try and have an impact on those systems.”

Secore’s career opportunities eventually led her to Minnesota, and in 2014 she took on her role leading Beltrami County’s Health and Human Services Department.

“I just decided that this would be an opportunity to work in systems and try to make a difference,” she said. “(I wanted) to work with other people to make changes in the community and provide better services.”

Leaving a legacy

Changing systems is just what one of Secore’s biggest projects at the county brought about. Through a partnership with Red Lake Nation, a recent initiative brought children and family services that were formerly under Beltrami County’s jurisdiction under Red Lake’s authority.

“Over the decades, Beltrami County had been responsible for placement costs and how services were provided in Red Lake Nation,” Secore explained. “It provided a lot of political strife over the years.”

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The Red Lake Initiative transferred these services to Ombimindwaa Gidinawemaaganinaadog, formerly known as Red Lake Family and Children’s Services, and allowed Red Lake to take a culturally specific approach and dictate how the services were provided to its citizens.

“Truly it’s been a wonderful partnership,” she said, “just meeting people with the same goals and being able to work together to achieve them.”

Secore also recently worked with Red Lake’s Oshkimaajitahdah to transfer over eligibility services so that individuals don’t have to travel all the way to Bemidji to access services.

It’s relationships from these two projects that Secore shared a special appreciation for, along with Cheri Goodwin from Ombimindwaa Gidinawemaaganinaadog and Jerry Loud from Oshkimaajitahdah.

“Cheri and Jerry were great partners in moving all the programs that we transferred to Red Lake and very gracious people,” she said.

The full list of those Secore is grateful for, however, would be too long to name.

“You just can’t do any of this work without great partners being a part of it and there’s too many to even name,” she said.

Without those partners and everyone’s combined efforts, Secore stressed that the various accomplishments of her time at the county wouldn’t have been possible.

“None of that happens without a whole bunch of people working together,” she left off. “That’s what I hope my legacy will be.”

Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
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