Mono County Administrative Officer Jim Arkens accepted a job as the Sutter County Administrative Officer (CAO) in Yuba City on Tuesday, Jan. 8, announcing his resignation, effective Feb. 4, from Mono County in a letter the following day.
Arkens did not attend Tuesday’s Mono County Board of Supervisors meeting, where three new supervisors—Tim Alpers, Fred Stump, and Tim Fesko—were sworn in.
The news that Arkens was leaving was a surprise to all of the county supervisors last Friday, Jan. 4, when Sutter County put the Arkens hire on the agenda.
According to District 3 Supervisor Alpers, the board will probably appoint someone to the post as an interim CAO until a permanent CAO can be found. He said the issue will probably be on the agenda for next week’s regular board of supervisors meeting on Jan. 15.
The board is also currently searching for a new finance director for the county after former Finance Director Brian Muir left the county at the end of December for a post in Shasta County.
Longtime Mono County Supervisor Byng Hunt weighed in on the Arkens’ departure Wednesday.
“Jim has served our County well during very tough economic times,” he said in an email.
“It is never an easy task managing people and services during economic downturns such as we have recently experienced. Jim’s personality did not mesh well with some folks, but he did what he had to do in order to keep the county operating efficiently.
“I was personally hoping that he would work with our new board over the next few months in a search for new relationships, but I understand his desire for new challenges.
“I wish him well in his new position in Sutter County, and now our new board will embark on the search for new leadership in both the CAO and Finance Director offices. I am strongly optimistic about the potential of our new Board of Supervisors in establishing new leadership that will benefit and enhance our future.”
New supervisor Tim Fesko said he did not know Arkens was searching for another job.
“I guess I was looking forward to being able to work with Jim,” he said last Friday. “Anything said in the past, to me, is water under the bridge.”
Fesko has been critical in the past of how the county was managed.
“I was hoping he would give the new board a chance,” he said. “But it does sadden me that this was done as quietly as he has. For us not to have heard about this, this far along, that saddens me.
“It shows me there is not a good working relationship, even with the existing board. But we will prevail. We always do. I look forward to moving the county forward with the board.”
Supervisor Larry Johnston, who has served on the board for the past two years and will serve two more years before being up for re-election, said he also was surprised.
“I just found out this afternoon that he was getting a job in Sutter County,” he said last Friday. “I suppose there is always that option that someone is looking. But my feeling is he was pretty stable here. I was hoping he would stay and work with the new board and see where that led. But maybe this is greener grass for him.”
Arkens submitted a letter of resignation to the Times on Wednesday. He said in an email that it would be the only comment he would make on the issue. It read:
"To the Honorable Mono County Board of Supervisors:
"I wish to inform the Board that this is to be considered my official resignation as County Administrative Officer for Mono County. I want to thank those on the Board that have supported me. I especially want to thank former Chair Vikki Bauer, Chair Byng Hunt, and former Supervisor Hazard for their assistance and help during the past 22 months.
"It has been an extremely difficult decision to leave the Bridgeport community and all of Mono County. I have enjoyed working with some extremely hardworking individuals. Through all the hard work and efforts we have managed to balance the budget, improve customer service, while accomplishing many goals.
"It has been my pleasure to serve along side of some excellent managers and staff. I want to especially thank Pam MacBride, Brian Muir, Julie Tiede, Rita Sherman, Lynda Salcido, Nancy Boardman, Lynda Roberts, Marshall Rudolph and all those who have made my tenure a memorable one.
"I wish the incoming Board of Supervisors the best of luck and I stand ready to assist them before my departure on February 3rd."
No more information was available about the employment offer by Sutter County, but the Yuba City Appeal-Democrat reported Arkens was offered a contract for three years with a salary of $185,000—a contract to be reviewed annually.
He will also be offered $4,000 in moving expenses. Arkens’ salary at Mono County, without benefits, is $170,316, according to the county budget.
“He was one person we thought we could get along with who would also work with the rest of our people,” said Sutter County board chair Larry Munger, as quoted by the newspaper. “We thought he’d be a good fit with the staff.”
Arkens came to Mono County in 2010 as the county’s human resource officer and was tapped for the Mono County CAO job in June 2011, when then-CAO Dave Wilbrecht took a job with the Town of Mammoth Lakes as town manager.
Arkens has worn many hats during the time he has been the Mono County CAO, including human resource officer and public works director, among others, in an effort by the county to streamline and save money.
Before working for Mono County, he served at Holy Cross Hospital in Taos, N.M. as Human Resources Director. He also was a CAO/Human Resources Director for Shawano County, Wis., and had more than 30 years total experience in government and administrative jobs.
Arkens presided over a significant number of employee retirements, turnover in staffing, and resignations in Mono County, including the assessor, assistant assessor, the solid waste director, and several staff from probation, engineering and other departments.
Both the county’s district attorney and its sheriff retired this past year, in the middle of their respective terms.
The turnover rate has been attributed by county officials as being inevitable as the county downsizes and seeks to become more cost-efficient, but there has also been criticism that it may be more than that—including Arkens’ style of management—from some people, including Fesko, who said in December that “morale (in Mono County) was at an all time low.”