Fort Bragg Advocate-News
Retiring CEO talks of challenges
Mendocino County Chief Executive Officer Carmel Angelo announced this week she will be stepping down from the position she held for more than a decade, describing her tenure in a recent interview as full of frustrating speed bumps on the road to progress.
“In the 12 years I’ve been here, there hasn’t been a lot that’s changed, and part of that is the lack of economic drivers (in this county), except cannabis, which no one wants to hear,” Angelo said in a live interview broadcast Wednesday morning on KZYX&Z, Mendocino County
Public Broadcasting, in which she told TKO host Karen Ottoboni about the challenges both she and the county faced over the years. “(But) cannabis is an economic driver in this community, whether we like it or not.
“We are a small, rural county that is somewhat impoverished,
and as long as we have no growth, that will continue,” Angelo said. “Without growth, you don’t have a thriving community. So I think Mendocino County lags behind (other counties). And the question is, can we catch up? And that I honestly don’t know.
“There has to be greater collaboration between the county and the cities. You know, we don’t have a taxsharing agreement. This is a joke,” she said. “But better people than me have worked on a tax-sharing agreement in this county, and it has never come to fruition. So, if there is the belief that a tax-sharing agreement is going to make the difference, and is going to bring in development, then that should be the No. 1 priority.
“I do think Mendocino
County is lagging behind, and I don’t mean to insult anybody, but I think we are, and I think the only way we’re going to catch up is with some accelerated movement, and I’m not sure that this county will do it,” Angelo said. “I believe that there is a culture here (that) creates this beautiful, pristine community that we live in. But the other side of that is this culture that doesn’t want to see growth, that doesn’t want to see change. And unless there’s change, this community will continue to lag behind.”
While “very briefly” describing her job, Angelo said the county CEO is someone who “works for the Board of Supervisors. And there has been a lot of misinformation out in the public, and some of the misinformation was that with a chief administrative officer, that person reports to the Board of Supervisors, but with the chief executive officer, the Board of Supervisors
reports to the CEO,” Angelo said. “That is absolutely incorrect. Whether you have a CAO or a CEO, that person works for the Board of Supervisors.
“I am one person, I am absolutely indispensable — I walk out of here, this county continues,” Angelo said, though when asked after the interview if she had misspoke, she confirmed that she meant to say she was in fact “absolutely dispensable.”
When asked Thursday morning how the Board of Supervisors planned to replace Angelo, 2nd District Mendocino County Supervisor Maureen Mulheren said she and 4th District Supervisor Dan Gjerde had proposed discussing the process at the Jan. 25 meeting of the board.
Mulheren said at least three aspects of Angelo’s departure need to be determined: 1. Whether the county should shift the Chief Executive Officer position to a Chief Administrative Officer instead; 2. Whether the search for the new CEO or CAO should be open or internal, meaning if the candidate will come from inside or outside the organization, and 3. What the board wants to do in the interim: the time between when Angelo leaves in late March and when a permanent replacement is hired.
Mulheren added that it has been expected for some time that Angelo would be leaving her position once her current contract expires in October of 2022, and her recently announced departure date is earlier than previously anticipated.
Another challenge with the CEO position, Angelo said on KZYX, is the county’s “fractured” organizational structure, particularly when compared to that of a city. While she has five departments reporting to her, all the other county “department heads report to the Board of Supervisors. And then you have the elected officials, (who report to the public) and the chief probation officer, who reports to the courts.”
But at a city like Ukiah, Angelo said, you have “a city manager, who reports to the City Council, but everybody else in that system reports to the city manager. The county system, in my opinion, is extremely fractured, because you have the departments, and you have the elected officials, (and) people will work together (only) if they want to work together — there is not the requirement that they work together,” she said. “Which honestly makes it somewhat difficult when you have projects that cross multiple departments, and you need to get those projects done on-time and on-budget.”