Stop the revolving door for county’s top job

When the county finally hires a permanent chief administrative
officer, it will be the sixth time the position is filled in about
a year. Supervisors must do all they can to make sure it is the
last time for a while.
When the county finally hires a permanent chief administrative officer, it will be the sixth time the position is filled in about a year. Supervisors must do all they can to make sure it is the last time for a while.

While the revolving door at the top would seem to indicate otherwise, San Benito County’s top job is an important leadership position. The CAO ensures the government works to implement the Board of Supervisors’ vision.

But a good CAO does more than that. A good CAO produces a strong budget that balances frugality with quality services for residents. A good CAO is creative enough to expand that budget through grants. A good CAO doesn’t require supervisors to micro-manage the county.

It’s a tall order to fill, – and it will not be made easier by the fact that the county has burned through so many leaders in the last year – but the new board members have an opportunity to do the job right. The county is taking the right approach so far by contracting with the California State Association of Counties to help with the recruitment process.

Once there is a qualified stable of individuals to interview, the supervisors should take some additional steps to ensure they land the right person. They should:

n Set up an executive interview committee that includes supervisors, residents and a rank-and-file county employee. It also would be wise to ask a professional in the field, like Gilroy’s City Administrator Jay Baksa, to join in. With the county’s penchant for politics, and the prior Board of Supervisors’ poor hiring record, it will be beneficial to gather opinions from residents, professionals and employees.

n Consider a young, vibrant CAO who may move on in three or four years, but who would do outstanding work while here. By the same token, don’t forget the lesson Hollister learned from City Manager Dale Shaddox. He retired after one year on the job, and one day after he turned 53, which boosted his public employee pension plan. Supervisors should avoid someone at the end of their career who could be looking to tack a golden parachute on the county.

With a new majority on the Board of Supervisors, the county is poised to take a comprehensive look at how it operates and implement forward-thinking changes for the future.

There is a lot of work to do, and supervisors should make sure they hire a CAO who will be a strong leader to guide the county in a new direction.

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