Mono County 2012: Musical chairs

A continuous revolving door

There were so many old faces leaving and new faces arriving in Mono County during 2012, it was almost enough to suffer whiplash.

The 2012 elections brought a new majority to the Mono County Board of Supervisors, as candidates Tim Fesko, Fred Stump, and Tim Alpers replace Supervisor Tim Hansen, Duane “Hap” Hazard, and Vikki Magee Bauer, respectively.

It seemed to be a case of incumbent fatigue, as restless county voters voted out two, two-term supervisors—Hazard and Bauer—and filled the runoff election for District 4 with a brand new, inexperienced challenger, Fesko, instead of former supervisor Bob Peters.

Whatever it was, the new board, many of whom have been critical of some of the county staffing decisions and financial decisions made by their challengers, will get their chance to make changes when they take their seats in early January.

There was also great upheaval at the county staff level, as many top officials resigned or retired in mid-term.

The county’s elected sheriff, Rick Scholl, retired in mid-term, and was replaced by his undersheriff, Ralph Obenberger, after being appointed by the Mono County Board of Supervisors to the post.

Longtime Mono County District Attorney George Booth retired in mid-term and was replaced by his assistant district attorney, Tim Kendall, also appointed by the board of supervisors.

In October, the county’s director of finance, Brian Muir, who guided the country through one of the worst economic recession since the county was created, announced that he was leaving to take a job in Shasta County. The county is still searching for a replacement for Muir when he leaves at the beginning of 2013.

The county’s mental health director, Ann Gimpel, retired and was succeeded by a relatively new Mono County employee, Robin Roberts. The county’s social services director, Julie Tiede, announced she would also leave in 2013.

Kathy Peterson, the county’s First Five director, will replace her.

The county’s probation officer, Tracy Neal, its solid waster director, Matt Carter, its assessor, Jody Henning and its assistant assessor, Chris Lyons also left, with some of their positions still to be filled.

Although county officials, regardless whether they’re elected and not elected, continue to assert such a wave of retirements and resignations is normal and expected during times of economic upheaval.

Others beg to differ, including newly elected Mono County Supervisor Fesko, who takes office in January.

“There is a lot of discontent at the county right now,” he said on Sept. 21.

“People are afraid to speak out. Morale is at an all-time low.  Everybody either has a friend who works for the county, or has a family member who does,” he said.

“I have to blame the current board of supervisors,” he said. “They are at the top of the pyramid. They need to step up and take control of the county.”