Mono County lost all three of its top administrators in the last few months, but none of the vacancies will be permanent and efforts are underway now to re-fill all the positions, according to county officials.
At the top of the list is replacing the County Administrative Officer (CAO) position, vacated on Feb. 3 by Jim Arkens . The best CAOs know how to keep all the disparate departments within a county—engineering, social services, public works, everything that makes a county run—moving smoothly.
The very best have personalities and management styles that help the county function like a team, thereby also serving the public better.
According to Mono County Supervisor Chair Byng Hunt, for these reasons and more, finding the right county administrative officer is worth some extra effort and cost. That means hiring a professional, called a “headhunter,” to find candidates that match the county board of supervisors’ list of desirable qualities—and finding someone who can live, or even better, thrive, in the remote and extreme conditions that Mono County offers.
“We have decided to proceed with a formal headhunter search for a new and highly qualified CAO,” he said.
“We will be hiring a professional headhunter organization to guide us through the recruitment process, which will include both local and state wide searches for the best person available.
“We will not be hiring an Interim CAO, but will maintain a status quo operation under the internal leadership of Lynda Salcido and (county counsel) Marshall Rudolph until a new CAO is hired, which should be in the next two to three months. Details regarding the formal recruitment process will be following shortly.”
Finding a chief finance officer for the county is equally important. Former Finance Director Brian Muir left the county at the end 2012 and Hunt said the search for a new director is “in full swing.”
“We have narrowed the applicant field down to five qualified candidates consisting of both local and state-wide talent,” he said. “An interview panel consisting of two supervisors (Hunt and Tim Alpers), county counsel, acting CAO Lynda Salcido, and an expert finance officer from outside the county will interview the candidates in the next few weeks.”
County Risk Manager Rita Sherman  also resigned her position in mid February. The new board has decided to combine that position with Human Resources, a job filled by Arkens for the past year or so.
“We are beginning the recruitment and application process for a very important Human Resources/Risk Manager position, which will be advertised for immediately, “ Hunt said.
Finally, the position of Public Works Director has ben vacant for several years after former public works director Evan Nikirk  resigned while former CAO Dave Wilbrecht was still in office. Along with human resource director, Arkens also acted as the county’s public works director for the past few years.
Hunt said it is possible the board will once again consider filling the position with a full time employee—but not until the new CAO is hired.
“Jeff Walters (assistant public works director under Nikirk and then facilities and roads department head under Arkens) was appointed yesterday as the acting public works director, and will remain in that position pending the upcoming appointment of a new CAO, at which time a structural reevaluation will take place under the new administrative leadership,” Hunt said.
“Things are moving quickly right now, and I remain confident that we are on a good path with a dedicated new board working through it all,” he said.