Thursday, November 26, 1998
The buzz is that she''s smart, tough, levelheaded, decisive and effective--and that Monterey County is lucky to get her. But as Sally Reed prepares to step into the county''s top administrative position on Dec. 7, she and the Board of Supervisors are relying on a lot more than luck to get things done
Issues facing the board--and Reed--range from a major update of the general plan to assuring water quantity and quality, transportation needs and funding, fiscal resources in general and maintaining viability of the agriculture industry and environmental resources. Reed is prepared.
"The board has talked to me about the very tough challenges of protecting the environment while keeping a thriving county economy and wanting me to work with them on ways to make sure we do both of those things," acknowledges Reed. "And there''s the overall issues of county services and facilities the county has and the best way to make sure those services are provided efficiently and effectively."
The 1996 Monterey County Grand Jury report also specifically rapped the way the county was governed, citing "inadequacies in the system of oversight and supervision of county departments, agencies and functions, which are resulting in, or might result in, operational and financial problems." The report also faulted county supervisors for interfering with staff and county department heads, and called for the development of a "county strategic plan" so that the public, county employees and county supervisors could have a clear idea of the county''s ongoing goals.
"One of the things that appealed to me about the job is that the board stressed their interest in seeing a strong executive presence in the county administrative office," says Reed.
Current Monterey County Board of Supervisors Chair Dave Potter and other board members have, since the first quarter of 1997, been engaged in a series of strategic planning retreats to define goals and strategies, at least partly in response to the grand jury criticism of both the board and the management of the CAO''s office. Today Potter is optimistic that things have improved and anticipates seeing even better communication among all departments. He sees Reed as part of that.
"The board has been working on a strategic plan for the county to make our goals and dreams a reality," says Supervisor Judy Pennycook, who becomes board chair in January. "With her experience, we''re at a good point to materialize everything we''ve been trying hard to make happen.
"Sally Reed will not sit back and watch," Pennycook is convinced. "She''ll be helping us come up with solutions."
"Over the last year, the board and acting CAO did a marvelous job of making sure the organization could operate," says Reed. "But I''m looking forward to trying to bring some strong leadership and strong teamwork to the table, working with elected officials as well as administrative department heads to recognize that the organization is only as strong as we as a team make it."
Although Reed says "it''s been my practice (in a new assignment) to spend 60 days or so formulating goals for myself," she is quick to identify her expectations for the organization under her direction.
"The most important thing is, frankly, a positive rather than a negative approach," explains Reed. "I believe the huge majority of employees in public service are competent and caring and honest people. I will support them 110 percent in doing a good job.
"On the other hand," she notes, "I don''t tolerate a lack of effort. I don''t even tolerate lack of ability, but I don''t find that very often. And I certainly don''t tolerate dishonesty. I am very decisive when crossed with one of those things. But for the huge majority of employees who do a good job and are willing to try to do better, they will never find a stronger fan than I am."
Reed also says she has long been a proponent of what she calls "organizational transformation."
"What it basically means," she explains, "is taking your strengths and using them to build the momentum toward a higher level of performance and teamwork. It''s very important to me. Training is important to me."
It''s an approach that worked in Santa Clara County, according to Rod Diridon, who served on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors during Reed''s entire 12-year tenure as county executive there. He shared Reed''s strong support of staff training. "We were able to install a training department within the county for purposes of training employees from the time they came through the front door all the way through management. Sally believes that learning never stops."
With over 30 years experience in government, including the top administrative jobs in the state Department of Motor Vehicles and Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties, Reed brings with her a long list of impressive credentials, enough to emerge as the Monterey County''s Board''s unanimous choice from a field of 71 candidates.
Diridon praises Reed as "an exceptionally gifted administrator, extremely effective in budgeting and very cognizant of having to obtain top value for taxpayers'' dollars."
But when Reed left Santa Clara County in 1993 to become Los Angeles County''s administrative officer, it was budgeting and a fiscal crisis many years in the making that put her in the spotlight. By 1996, the county was on the brink of going bankrupt. Reed proposed closing the county hospital.
"It was a very controversial recommendation that shook our world," says Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. "If she had not made it, there would have been more delay on the part of the county in dealing with the fiscal crisis. Her role was pivotal to waking the Board of Supervisors up to the fiscal realities. I have high regard for her."
Budgetary needs in Monterey County are already on Reed''s mind. "I strongly believe that counties are in serious financial shape and serious financial dependence on the state," she says. "The challenge for counties is enormous. The demand for county resources is unlimited. The resources are miniscule. Counties cannot do everything