November 25, 2022
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Our View: Ventura County’s interim CEO has a big job ahead

IN THIS ARTICLE

After two weeks of upheaval and confusion, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors has taken some welcome steps toward new leadership after the abrupt departure of longtime CEO Mike Powers.

The first step was the release of information about the circumstances of Powers’ departure. Although it did not release a report into a sexual harassment allegation against Powers, the board did announce March 22 that it had voted unanimously back on March 8 to place Powers on paid administrative leave.

This is a welcome, if belated, step toward transparency, but we remain concerned that the county’s top lawyer said she still does not believe the county was legally bound to release the outcome of the vote to put Powers on leave. Our reporting indicates otherwise.

We understand the need to keep the details of the investigation confidential, to protect the privacy of the alleged victim and other named parties. But the public deserves to know what Powers is accused of, who knew about the accusations and when, and what was done about the matter before an outside law firm was called in.

Second, on March 22 the board unanimously selected Sevet Johnson to serve as interim CEO while a nationwide search gets underway for a permanent replacement. Johnson, who is Black, brings welcome diversity to the top executive ranks.

She also comes out of the county’s sprawling Health Care Agency, where she serves as chief deputy officer and head of its growing Behavioral Health Department.

Johnson is a clinical psychologist who has been with the Health Care Agency since 2009. With 13 years of service to the county under her belt, she has the advantage of bringing both deep experience to the job and a fresh perspective on the county’s complex organization. She also is co-leader for the county’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, a group established under the Powers administration and supported by the Board of Supervisors.

It has been an unsettling time for county employees — both rank-and-file workers concerned about the shakeup at the top as well as senior managers who were accustomed to Powers’ management style. After an abrupt departure in the executive suite, calling in a trained clinical psychologist to settle things down and get the organization moving forward seems like a smart call.

IN MEMORIAM

• The Santa Barbara Zoo is mourning the death of Edward “Ted” McToldridge, the first director of the zoo and the person who did the most to shape its early years. McToldridge, born in Britain in 1930, joined the zoo in 1964 as park superintendent when he was hired by the Child Estate Foundation. A contractor by training, he remained at the helm until the late 1990s. His wife Nancy, now zoo director, continues the tradition of service to a beloved Central Coast institution. Condolences to the family and to the Santa Babrara Zoo community.

• San Luis Obsipo is mourning the death, at age 93, of Dave Romero, a former mayor, City Council member and public works director. Romero served 16 years as mayor councilmember, after serving from 1956 to 1992 as public works director. Downtown San Luis Obispo’s roads, sidewalks, water supply, parking structures and many other systems are a tribute to his ability to balance the traditional look of the city with the need to move forward as a vibrant urban corridor.