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Mono County

January 11, 2013

 

We went looking for the face of Mono County this week, but we didn’t find it.

We tried straining our ears for the voice of Mono County, but it was so quiet in Bridgeport that all we heard was the breeze fanning the fog over the Mono Basin and the occasional—and distant—roar of a snowmobile.

The curious vacuum in the county’s halls of politics has taken nearly everyone by surprise.

The county administrator, Jim Arkens, is leaving town so fast there hasn’t even been time for the door to slam behind him. No one with whom we spoke saw that resignation coming, nor could we find anyone who was upset about his departure.

The county’s finance director, Brian Muir, is gone—now crunching numbers in Shasta County.

There have been so many resignations and downsizings in Bridgeport that it feels like a completely new place.

Offices that have been vacated or abandoned include those belonging to the assessor, the assistant assessor, and several staff members from probation, engineering and other departments. Some of those spots have not been filled.

The county’s district attorney, George Booth, and its sheriff, Rick Scholl, both retired this past year, in the middle of their respective terms.

As for the Board of Supervisors, Vikki Bauer is gone; Hap Hazard is gone; Tim Hansen is gone.

We’re of a mind that this is a good thing, though.

The resignations and vacancies offer the county government a chance to do some serious re-thinking as to how it wants to do business in the future. It is no longer hamstrung by the past.

The new Board of Supervisors, anchored by veteran office holders Byng Hung and Larry Johnston, have a chance to draw a new blueprint, and that means opportunity is knocking.

The county government now gets to deal with the same dynamic with which the Town of Mammoth is dealing, what with its own loss of staff members across the board, police officers and other personnel.

We figure that this is going to be fun.

With both government entities in a state of downsize, along with ongoing budget constraints faced by the county’s two school districts, along with the Mammoth Community Water District, opportunities for efficiencies lie in front of us. The opportunities are as clear as a Mono County sunrise, and the time to take advantage of them is now.

To that end, we got to gabbing with Mammoth’s assistant town manager, Marianna Marysheva-Martinez, about what these opportunities might be, exactly.

She said that she and Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht, himself the former Mono County Administrator, have been having some informal chats about how each government entity might benefit from having a series of go-to resources. These might involve accounting, public works, finance, and unified information technology systems.

Rumors are all over the place on this—our favorite one lately is that Marysheva-Martinez is aiming to set up a finance fiefdom. She said that idea has never come up.

Rather, she said Wilbrecht seems to have the idea that we Eastsiders have a rare chance to eliminate needless overlaps and stupid duplications—that we don’t have to work harder at government; we just need to work smarter.

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