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Removing barriers: New assistant CEO wants to create opportunities for people

Caleb Dardick has been chosen as the assistant CEO of Nevada County. Dardick spent six years at the helm of the South Yuba River Citizens League before joining the county in 2020 as a wildfire prevention and emergency planning official.
Photo: Elias Funez

Caleb Dardick is no stranger to Nevada County.

For one, he’s lived in Nevada County since childhood, and is a graduate of Nevada Union High School. He earned a bachelor’s in history with honors from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He currently lives in Nevada City with his wife, Carolyn, an executive coach and organizational development consultant.

A former Nevada County project administrator, Dardick was appointed last week as assistant CEO, filling the vacancy left by Mali LaGoe, who accepted the city manager job in Scotts Valley.

“I’m honored Alison selected me to serve as her assistant CEO,” said Dardick. “It’s a tremendous vote of confidence to be asked to help implement the supervisors’ policy objectives. It’s an added pleasure to to serve the county, where my father, Sam Dardick, also served as supervisor.”

Nevada County CEO Alison Lehman said Dardick served from September 2019 as project administrator in the County Executive Office. He focused on the Board of Supervisors’ priorities, including wildfire mitigation, economic development, broadband expansion and the protection of open spaces and trails.

“Caleb has been instrumental in moving board policy objectives forward,” she said. “He brings great expertise in organizational management, government, communication, and community engagement. He is a proven leader with the ability to bring diverse coalitions of people together for common cause, whether it’s restoring the Bridgeport Covered Bridge or establishing the Nevada County Relief Fund, which raised over $1.5 for pandemic relief.”

A vital concern for Dardick is ensuring the county is a great place to live, work and recreate. Guided by supervisor policy, the executive office needs to focus on resiliency by reducing wildfire risk, diversifying the economy, supporting affordable housing and protecting public lands.

“When I started in the CEO’s office, our community was hit by power shut-offs, then the pandemic, several wildfires, then the snowstorm,” he said. “But it’s also been an opportunity to work together as a community. I’m most proud of our launching the Nevada County Relief Fund, and to see our residents help neighbors weather with the pandemic or wildfires.”


Dardick added that as state and federal funds become available, they will help the county meet goals of expanding broadband and housing.

“We can promote development by supporting business and industry already here,” he said. “We need to ask business what obstacles they face, and then remove barriers.”

The pandemic exposed some of the vulnerability of a tourism-based economy.

“What can we do here, which can’t be outsourced and isn’t dependent on outsiders?” he asked. “We need to encourage personal stewardship and harden our homes. It’s never ending, brush grows back. And we need to secure permanent sustainable funding to keep our evacuation routes clear in an emergency.”

Dardick also expressed gratitude for growing up in the county, where he can use his skills and passion for public service.

“I think we need to create opportunities for young people to stay in the community, find meaningful work and affordable housing in the community where they grew up.”

Many from the area love the rural way of life, he said. But residents also need to be better stewards of the land and together clean up the land and inform visitors to do the same.

“I am excited about working with our state and federal land managers to develop and implement a long-term plan to protect our popular river crossings and trail heads,” he said.

Growing up on the San Juan Ridge, Dardick has the benefit of an intimate front row view of the county, as well as the experience of 27 years of public service. Previous to his work with the county, he was the executive director of the South Yuba River Citizens League. Before that endeavor, Dardick served as director of local government and community relations at UC Berkley. For almost a decade, he participated in public affairs consulting among numerous businesses, government, nonprofits and political negotiations to improve quality of life, while establishing a distinction for ethical conduct and candor.

Dardick is the son of Sam Dardick, a former two-term member of the Board of Supervisors. Sam and his wife, Geeta, a retired family and marriage counselor, co-founded the organization FREED in 1983, which provides a variety of services to people with disabilities and older adults who live in Nevada, Yuba, Sutter and Colusa counties.

Dardick starts his assistant CEO duties on Sunday. He will receive an annual salary of $175,048.92. He will direct the work of staff responsible for fiscal planning and general administrative activities of the county, and also review and ensure accuracy of subordinates, as well as review and analyze legislation, case law, and other regulations.

He will also counsel employees regarding work issues and conduct performance appraisals, as well as assist in the selection of candidates for employment and training and help with developing the annual budget. He’ll act as the county executive officer in Lehman’s absence.

William Roller is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at wroller@theunion.com

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