Changing a county government organization often is a tricky proposition, complicated by financial limitations, incumbency of current employees, available office space, divergent opinions of members of the boards of supervisors (called commissioners in Nevada), and institutional inertia. Such is, or has been, the case in Alpine County. Nevertheless, some badly needed changes in the makeup of our county organization have recently been implemented or are in the offing. Foremost among those is the establishment and hiring of a county administrative officer.
On May 15, Pamela Knorr will assume that position, taking on a long list of duties on behalf of the Board of Supervisors, including coordinating the work of all county offices and departments, preparing annual budget recommendations, monitoring expenditures throughout the fiscal year, and supervising the non-elected department heads.
Knorr, comes here from her current position as a regional administrator for the Texas Attorney General's Office. She previously held administrative positions in Placer and Napa counties.
Knorr said she is "looking forward to working with the Board of Supervisors and employees and residents of Alpine County on the challenging issues facing the county. It's a privilege to be Alpine County's first county administrative officer and I'm excited to accept this position."
Besides the challenge of the position, she was attracted by the quality of life of the area.
"This area (the central Sierras) is home," she said, having grown up in nearby Amador County. She's an outdoor person, who with her two young sons enjoys skiing and boarding, trail riding, and canoeing. Seems like she'll fit right in.
Now to some of you readers, creating such a job sounds pretty much like a routine matter. Not so! For nearly 20 years the issue of having an administrative officer, similar to a county manager, has been batted around among the citizens and the boards of supervisors. As a matter of fact a county grand jury highlighted the need for the CAO position back in 2001, but the Board of Supervisors at that time wasn't persuaded to change the status quo.
Then and until now the five members of the board collectively supervised the non-elected department heads and tried to coordinate those people along with the elected officials such as the sheriff, county clerk, and assessor in addition to their own policy and decision making responsibilities. That has been difficult, to say the least. Difficult for the board members, difficult for department heads.
The current board saw things differently and has been working to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the county's organization, starting with setting up a human resources (personnel) officer as a separate department a couple of years ago. That person is Beth Nunes. And recently has been the creation of the county administrative wfficer position which Knorr is taking.
Another position, an Assistant Director of Public Works, has been advertised. It's expected that person will, among other tasks, help expedite the review of projects that must gain the approval of that department before commencing. A recently recognized financial crunch may postpone filling that assistant job for a while, though.
The county also has tentatively planned to establish a part time position, possibly to be filled by contract, to inspect properties for compliance with state and county fire safe requirements for providing "defensible space" around homes.
Well, there you are, a bit of information about what's going on in Alpine County government.