Jeff Pelline: Take this job and shove it? |

Jeff Pelline: Take this job and shove it?

What would Kathleen Smith say in an exit interview?

Sure we know about the controversies at the elections office under Smith: a voter pamphlet snafu on Measure S and Measure T, complaints about slow returns, confusion about polling places and denying the requested ballot designation of her opponent Gregory Diaz, among other problems.

I don’t know if this is grand jury fodder or not.

But from her perspective, what would Smith say about the Board of Supervisors, which appointed her in the first place (before she was elected)? Did she get the necessary tools, as well as the support, to do her job?

Smith is keeping quiet, calling the matter “personal.” Her resignation letter was a simple one-liner. I’ve learned throughout the years that’s a sign that doesn’t always spell out a “warm and fuzzy” relationship.

I had a long lunch with Kathleen a while back, and we got to know each other and talked about some personal things. She didn’t understand why her approach may have got her in hot water, such as when she said “no comment” and hung up the phone on a reporter on election night. From her perspective, she was just busy.

Nobody knows the details because nobody is talking. But I think a good exit interview would bring out these details:

1. Frustration regarding resources. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Smith resigned as the budget process got underway. I think it was a good time for an “out.” I think it’s arduous to make the case for more resources. Rather than assuming that department heads have to ask for the tools they need, it’s always a good idea for a manager to ask that question up front. Smith needs more technology and technological know-how in her office, for example.

Her predecessor also complained about a shortage of staff.

2. Frustration regarding relationships. My own impression is that Smith was kind of an “outsider” in our county’s tight political network. Sure, she signed up for Rotary as advised – a prerequisite – but I don’t think it went much further than that. Relationship building is a two-way street in politics, and I think she – as well as political colleagues – have to accept responsibility. By its nature, a clerk-recorder has an awkward relationship with other politicians.

3. A personal desire to try something new. I never got the sense Smith was wedded to Nevada County. As she points out, many opportunities exist in the marketplace for a woman of her talents. I’ll bet she won’t stick around NC long after this summer.

The benefit of an exit interview is that it gives both the employee and employer a chance to be introspective. As the county searches for yet another clerk-recorder (and another who has resigned in mid-term) it will be interesting to see what changes, if any, are made on the Rood Center’s end.


Jeff Pelline is the editor of The Union. His column appears on Saturdays. Contact him at 477-4235,, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User