Is it too early to start speculating about Mendo After Angelo? Of course it is. Way too early.
So, let’s look into our Crystal Ball using what little we know about the current chaotic state of affairs at 501 Low Gap Road and see what we can see.
Given the Board’s misplaced devotion to their pointless Strategic Plan — if you don't have a clue, what's the point of a plan? But we do see Interim Health and Human Services Director (and Strategic Plan point person) Ann Molgaard being appointed Interim CEO soon after the CEO’s departure in March, with Dr. Jenine Miller appointed Interim HHSA director to replace Molgaard.
Meanwhile, the Board has already indicated a preference for a “CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) model” administrative structure instead of the concentrated power of the Chief Executive Officer, but what that “model” will end up looking like is unclear.
The Board has already put in motion an unwise plan (actually, as Supervisor Haschak noted, there’s no plan, but they have decided to consolidate the Auditor-Controller with the Treasurer-Tax Collector into an elected position with an election on next June’s ballot.
Treasurer-Tax Collector Shari Schapmire has said she will probably retire rather than run for the new Finance Director position. But nobody has given any thought (on the record) to what the new Finance Director position will look like or what qualifications/experience will be required.
It’s possible that Auditor-Controller Chamise Cubbison will stay on to run for Finance Director, especially now that CEO Angelo is out of the picture. (Perhaps wishful thinking on our part, but we think Mendo is lucky to have her bird dogging expenditures.)
They’ve also established a large new Cannabis Department. Most people don’t know that “Interim” Planning Director Nash Gonzalez is not a County employee, but a private contractor, working for a planning consultancy outfit. A new Water Agency is being formed. There’s been some talk about breaking up the Health and Human Services Agency into two or three new departments.
Then we have the other elected positions of District Attorney, Sheriff, Assessor-Recorder-Clerk which will presumably remain as is. The Board should take this opportunity to re-establish their own Clerk of the Board, but we haven’t heard any discussion of that. (This task was recently made more difficult by the departure of senior Board Clerk Lindsay Dunaway.) CEO Angelo brought General Services/Purchasing under the “Executive Office” a few years ago, but it’s unclear if it will continue that way under the CAO model.
Complicating matters is the Board’s lack of faith in their own County Counsel, Christian Curtis, given that Board Chair Ted Williams has hired costly outside Counsel to advise the Board on the proper procedure to raise his salary in the wake of Curtis’s embarrassing mishandling of his own raise proposal. But somebody will have to advise the Board on whatever legalities will apply to any new organization.
Pre-Angelo, under the old CAO model, there were something like 20 separate department heads all reporting to the Supervisors. We doubt the Board will want anything that unwieldy post-Angelo.
The timing of all of this remains unclear as well. When will the new departments be established? How long will it take to staff them? What new offices or facilities will be required?
We are unable to confirm the terrifying rumors that the husband and wife team of Linda Ruffing and Richard Shoemaker are in the running for co-CAO. But they can cite their “experience” as city manager of Fort Bragg and Point Arena, respectively. Never mind that the experience was not very good. But it paid well.
Given the gaping managerial experience and competency gap of the present Board, and their seeming inability to make even minor decisions without the CEO telling them what to do, combined with the new and rejuggled departments, senior level staff turnover and general upheaval in several existing departments, the only thing we can say for sure is that Mendo is in for a lot of “interim” job titles for a while.
And, like the rest of the country, the road ahead is not just bumpy, but full of slides, potholes and sinkholes, most of which will come as a rude surprise to whoever is driving the bus.