Terry McAteer: Dear Alison, Nevada County’s new CEO
September 11, 2018
Congratulations! You have taken over as the new chief executive officer for the County of Nevada. This is a huge position, one which carries a great amount of prestige and leadership responsibility. I know you are up to the task.
We served together on the First 5 Commission and I worked closely with you when you were director of Social Services. You are organized and possess great leadership capabilities. Your work at the County of Nevada has been exemplary; you have a great academic resume with a master's in public administration from CSU Northridge and a bachelor's degree from Cal. Go Bears!
At this time and place, your leadership and vision is desperately needed.
Develop that grand vision and tell us where we are going, as this community is desperate for leadership.
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For the past decade through the Great Recession and leading up to today, the county has just been "bobbing along." The cities of Truckee, Nevada City and Grass Valley have experienced huge turnover in staffing and administrative leadership; they, too, are just bobbing along. The business community that was ravaged by the recession is hampered by a rudderless Economic Resource Council and is also just bobbing along.
"Bobbing along" cannot be the playbook under your administration because you are much more talented than that. We need a grand vision from you which outlines where we as a community are headed. We are currently in a leadership void.
The county departments, the cities, and the business community are looking to you for direction. You need to develop the road map, articulate that road map and devote energy and resources towards implementing it because that is the role of leadership.
I urge you to not fall into the trappings of governmental bureaucracy by letting mediocrity and regulations tie your hands. Moreover, don't fall into the role of manager of the County of Nevada, as that is far beneath your abilities to just manage. We want you to lead! We want you to be bold!
Pick the low hanging fruit first as it is the easiest to accomplish. These fruit include providing a clear vision and direction to staff and department heads that empower them toward bringing forth creative solutions, which will streamline government and address the heart of your vision. Next up are your partners, the three cities. Currently, the county is in an adversarial position with them which is just not acceptable. You need to mend the wounds, reestablish a meaningful partnership and provide the leadership which they so desire.
Once you provide vision and direction to staff and reestablish meaningful relations with your cities, you can then tackle the tougher issues because these partners will assist you with three large issues: business retention/attraction, marijuana and homelessness.
The recession washed out much of our quality employment base and we are primarily left with a service-based economy. We need your leadership to listen to the larger business community (Telestream, Robinson Enterprises, AJA Video, Ensemble Designs, etc.) so as to insure we retain them and then provide them with leadership on their issues. We need a vibrant business community that will attract other businesses because we have a quality labor force and moderately-priced housing (as compared to the rest of the state). Without a clear direction and bold leadership from you, we will soon become one huge retirement community with a large income gap and a large age gap. No businesses will want to stay in such a community and our middle class families will continue to exit en masse.
A sure-fire way for businesses to flee Nevada County is to be perceived (real or imagined) as the new Emerald Triangle for marijuana cultivation, production and sales. The silent majority of residents, while understanding the law, also know that a balance between this "new economy" and a vibrant tourism and tech industry is essential. Your leadership must strike this balance.
As for homelessness, it has plagued nearly every community including our own. This again is a rudderless issue that demands your leadership. The solutions are at-hand because many stakeholders are at the table to help develop a plan, but it takes resources and cooperation to get to the core issues. You can solve this one, like the aforementioned issue, not because we haven't tried before but because we haven't had a leader with a vision and a leader with passion.
It is your time, Alison! Develop that grand vision and tell us where we are going, as this community is desperate for leadership. You are that person. We all want you to succeed. We are all willing to dig-in to help you succeed. Now lead.
Terry McAteer is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His views are his own and do not represent the views of The Union or its editorial board members. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.