Faced with the need to fill several high-level vacancies in county departments, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is moving forward with a trial merger of the Department of General Services and the Department of Transportation and Public Works.
The council voted unanimously Jan. 25 to place General Services, the county’s real estate and real estate agency, under the supervision of Johannes Hoevertsz, director of transportation and public works, for a six-month trial period.
General Services, with a budget of $45.3 million and approximately 108 permanent employees, is responsible for managing county facilities and real estate, managing contracts with outside vendors, maintaining vehicles county and veterans memorial buildings.
The department is also responsible for overseeing the county’s energy use and sustainability efforts, but the county administrator’s office will absorb this work.
Although much of the department’s work is internal, it has managed high-profile projects, including the sale of the county’s Chanate Road campus, which the county auctioned off for $15 million in November. He is now leading the county’s effort to build a new government campus in downtown Santa Rosa.
The department’s merger with transportation and public works, which has a $180.1 million budget and 173 permanent staff, means Hoevertsz will oversee one of the largest combined budgets and staffing levels in both. dozens of county departments and agencies, with more than 4,000 employees in total.
Hoevertsz has been director of transport and public works since 2017 and became deputy director of the department in 2015.
“He’s on top of the game,” Supervisory Board Chairman James Gore said in an interview with The Press Democrat. “I have a ton of confidence in him.”
Transportation and Public Works is responsible for maintaining the 1,400-mile road system outside of cities, operates the county bus system and Charles M. Shultz-Sonoma County Airport, and oversees the landfill of the county northwest of Petaluma.
Hoevertsz’s experience in contract management and vehicle maintenance already overlaps with some of the new responsibilities he will now inherit, Gore said.
“The goal is to increase efficiency, coordination, progress, progress,” Gore said.
He added in a later interview that the move was not intended to cut costs, although some savings were likely.
“The intent wasn’t that we ‘we’re going to save money,'” Gore said. “It was about getting better.”
Hoevertsz told The Press Democrat he thinks the way the county gets contracts can be more efficient. He noted that other counties have general services operating as a division of their public works agencies.
The board approved an 8% raise for Hoevertsz for the 6-month trial, bringing his salary to $244,198.
At the end of the six-month trial period, the board will determine whether to make the move permanent.
“At the end of six months, hopefully we’ll have a framework on how to better serve our customers and maybe save some money,” Hoevertsz said.
The county has undertaken larger departmental mergers in the past. In 1995, he consolidated five different departments into one planning and permitting department now called Permit Sonoma. The Office of the Auditor-Comptroller-Treasurer-Collector of Taxes, combined in 2006, and the Clerk-Recorder-Assessor and Registrar of Electors, combined in 2001, are other examples of the county’s consolidation efforts.
The merger comes as general services director Caroline Judy is set to retire on February 8, a move she announced in October 2022.
As the county’s real estate manager, Judy led the department through a long list of projects, topped by the sale last year of the county’s struggling Chanate campus to a Las Vegas-based developer and the pursuit by the county of a new government complex in downtown Santa Rosa – a costly and ambitious undertaking which Hoevertsz will now inherit.
“You got us through the trials and tribulations of land use, Chanate, contracts, reforming our sustainability division, veteran buildings,” Gore said of Judy at the meeting. of the council on January 25. “These are incredibly hot issues.”
Hoevertsz said he would take on the challenge of taking on the department and met with Judy weekly to prepare.
Hoevertsz said he will always be involved in transportation and public works operations and has confidence in his assistant directors, Janice Thompson and Trish Pisenti, who will take on larger roles overseeing projects where Hoevertsz needs to step back.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Hoevertsz said. “We’re looking forward to hopefully July or August to go to the board with a plan.”
The county has struggled over the past year with the departure of several department heads who have cited either disaster fatigue or racial bias as reasons for leaving. The loss of department heads has prompted criticism that the council needs to do more to support its employees as they work to meet growing demands brought on by emergencies like wildfires and floods, and the pandemic.
“We tend in Sonoma County to turn into a multi-initiated disorder,” Gore said.
He added that his goal as chairman this year is to achieve stability and expects the board to review the county’s reporting structure and determine which department heads should report directly to County Administrator Sheryl Bratton. and which ones report to the board.
“I don’t think it’s a good model to have a department head reporting to five people, even if they govern by majority or unanimity,” Gore said.
In addition to Judy, the board is looking to permanently fill senior positions in the Department of Health Services, Economic Development Council, and Information Technology.
You can contact editor Emma Murphy at 707-521-5228 or [email protected] On Twitter @MurphReports.