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CEO departing in March

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January 13, 2022—County CEO Carmel Angelo told the Board of Supervisors last week that she is moving up the date of her retirement, from October of this year to March. Supervisors Maureen Mulheren and Dan Gjerde spoke with kzyx earlier this week about their work comparing the CEO versus the CAO model, and some of their thoughts on finding Angelo’s successor. They’re on an ad hoc committee charged with providing the rest of the board with the information they need to craft an ordinance laying out which model the county plans to use in the future. At this point, the ordinance will be most useful as a job description for candidates. Mulheren and Gjerde plan to present their findings at the next meeting on January 25th.

Gjerde, the only supervisor on the board right now who is not in his first term, called Mendocino County’s current ordinance “a bit of a hybrid.”

“The principle difference between a CEO and a CAO is under a CA ordinance, supervisors have a little more management, or oversight anyway, of the departments, because they perform annual performance reviews for most of the department heads,” he explained. While Mendocino County’s ordinance specifies that supervisors do conduct these reviews in closed session, Gjerde added that during his nine-year tenure, those reviews had been a little inconsistent. He and Mulheren are planning to recommend a special two-day annual meeting for those reviews, probably at the beginning of the year.

If the board does not find a successor for Angelo right away, he thinks there are strong interim options, including Assistant CEO Darcie Antle, head of the finance team that has been successful at bringing in grant money after the fires. “But the full board needs to discuss all of our options before making a decision,” he noted. 

Mulheren and Gjerde both served on City Councils before becoming supervisors. They reflected on the options of hiring Angelo’s replacement from within the organization or conducting an open recruitment. “That looks like a lot of different things,” Mulheren said, “including that there are multiple positions available across the state, where you are generally trying to attract a small pool of people that are qualified to take on those CEO/CAO positions.”

Mulheren and Gjerde both served on City Councils before becoming supervisors, and participated in hiring city managers. Gjerde recalled that during his tenure with Fort Bragg, the City Council had mixed results in hiring two city managers from outside the organization, and that he was pleased with the internal hire. “It depends on the personnel that you have internally, and the risks that you can face, bringing in someone from the outside,” he reflected. “You could hear nothing but praise for someone from the outside, and maybe some of those other agencies may want to see them leave.”

Gjerde praised Angelo’s fiscal acumen, saying he believes her legacy will be leaving the county more solvent than it was when she took the helm twelve years ago. Angelo herself sounded a note of caution about the budget, which has seen infusions of state and federal money due to disasters in the past few years.

“At some point, the government is going to stop printing money, and we won’t get it,” she declared. “And we were an impoverished rural county before all of these disasters, when all of this money started flowing, and that’s what we will go back to. So I think the board needs to be very clear and really look at the projects over the next three to five years, and honestly, stop spending.” In an in-depth, hour-long interview with kzyx programmer Karen Ottoboni on Wednesday, Angelo listed cannabis as the one growth sector in the county. But she agreed that there are not a lot of grounds to be optimistic about the cannabis markets right now. “I think that we are in a very sensitive spot,” she said. “I don’t think that the cannabis dollars are going to continue to flow…I don’t think that our cannabis program has been very successful when you compare it to surrounding counties…I don’t know that we’re going to be able to pull ourselves out of this hole. We just started out lagging.”

But she believes staff and supervisors are in a good position to continue building alliances across the state. Supervisors are serving on influential statewide bodies, and she said that when she goes to meetings of the RCRC (Rural County Representatives of California) and CSAC (California State Association of Counties), she takes her staff with her, “And the reason I bring them is so that they will make those connections themselves. So when I’m no longer going to CSAC and RCRC, come April,   the staff, my team, that have been here, that have been developed, they have those connections, and they will continue with those connections.” 

Mulheren added that she is optimistic about the board and staff working together on some big projects in the new year, including the strategic plan, working out the CEO/CAO ordinance, and consolidating the auditor and treasurer and tax collector’s offices.

 
Audio version of "CEO departing in March"