Fire Engineer Rides Cross-Country to Shine Light on PTSD

Cal fire/san diego county Fire apparatus engineer Thomas pitman in neon yellow shirt poses with Jacksonville beach firefighters at the end of his memorial bike ride.

Cal fire/san diego county Fire apparatus engineer Thomas pitman in neon yellow shirt poses with Jacksonville beach firefighters at the end of his memorial bike ride.

CAL FIRE/San Diego County Fire Apparatus Engineer Thomas Pitman finished a cross-country bicycle ride earlier this month to help raise awareness and money for the Cory Iverson Foundation for Active Awareness. Iverson, 32, of Escondido died in in December 2017 while battling the Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Iverson’s widow, Ashley Iverson, started a nonprofit foundation to help bring awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder in men and women in the fire service and help them. Pitman decided he wanted to do something to honor his friend and help raise money so the foundation can offer programs such as peer support and mental health to the firefighters.

He surpassed his fundraising goal of $1 a mile for the 2,500-mile trip and finished with $12,000.

Pitman started out on New Year’s Day in Imperial Beach and rode for 36 days as part of the Ride Into the Light. He finished in Jacksonville Beach, Florida on Feb. 5. Relive his emotional finish here.  (Video from CAL FIRE Facebook)

To see of the news coverage after his return to San Diego where he reflected on his trip, check out these links:



We’re Consolidating County Groups to Become More Lean and Agile

-Helen Robbins-Meyer, Chief Administrative Officer

I’ve spoken much about us entering a period of change. That includes long, hard looks at our organization and seeing whether it’s as effective as it can be.

With that in mind, I’m announcing a significant restructuring of the County’s five business groups, consolidating them into four. We’ll transfer the departments of the Community Services Group (CSG) into other groups, and we’ll dissolve the CSG executive office.

These changes will be effective July 1, 2019.

The departments themselves will remain intact, and the reorganization will not affect departmental staffing.

We chose the new homes for each of these departments very deliberately. Each closely aligns with existing missions of those groups, so the moves mean better alignment with our overall County strategy.

Here’s where we are placing the CSG departments:

  • The Department of Animal Services will move to the Public Safety Group with a focus on animal safety and well-being.

  • County Library will transition to the Land Use & Environment Group to build on synergies with parks and recreational services.

  • The Department of Purchasing and Contracting will join the Finance & General Government Group to better serve customer contracting needs across the enterprise.

  • The Registrar of Voters will report to the Finance & General Government Group to meet the intergovernmental needs for election services throughout the region. 

  • The Department of General Services will report directly to Assistant Chief Administrative Officer, Don Steuer, but be administratively aligned to the Finance & General Government Group.

  • Responsibilities for the Countywide Redevelopment Successor Agency Oversight Board will transition to the Health and Human Services Agency.

Current CSG DCAO, April Heinze, will take a new position as DCAO for Special Projects in the Chief Administrative Office. She will focus on expediting the successful completion of affordable housing projects stemming from the Board’s Innovative Housing Trust Fund awards, oversight of the affordable housing projects being built on surplus county property, energy sustainability solutions, as well as other new priorities that are expected from the Board of Supervisors. The other members of the CSG Executive Office will be placed in various open positions in the County.

These organizational changes are meant to expedite our response times, increase cost efficiency and enhance service delivery to the region. They will be reflected in the FY 2019-2021 Operational Plan.

We’re going to keep reviewing the organization’s structure and make changes as needed to meet new challenges ahead. I appreciate everyone’s flexibility and hope you share my excitement as we better shape the organization to meet our customers’ needs.

Get Text Messages to Keep Up On Employee Events


It’s quick and easy to stay on top of upcoming employee events—just sign up for text message announcements about wellness activities, professional development opportunities and other County events.

You can sign up for one, two or even all three distribution lists. Note that messaging and texting rates apply. 

Here how to sign up:

·         Text “CoSD WELLNESS” to 468311 for Wellness events

·         Text “CoSD EVENTS” to 468311 for Countywide events

·         Text “CoSD PROFDEV” to 468311 for professional development opportunities

If you decide they’re not for you, reply “CoSD STOP” to stop receiving the messages.

PerkSpot: Valentine’s Day Deals


Dazzle your darling this Valentine’s Day. Treat them to flowers, chocolates or a fun and fantastic date at a local attraction. The sweetest part—you can save through PerkSpot.

PerkSpot has deals at retailers such as, FTD, Godiva, Fruit Bouquets and Shari’s Berries. You can also find discounts on admission to the San Diego Zoo, tickets to a Hornblower cruise or K1 Speed Indoor Go Kart racetrack passes, which will really get your heart racing!

PerkSpot offers benefits and discounts through more than 400 service providers and retailers. Go to and shop. If you are new, click on “Create an Account” to register.

Employee Charity Hosts Fundraiser at Seals Lacrosse Game

Children In Need, a nonprofit charity run by HHSA employees, has teamed up with the San Diego Seals professional lacrosse team to host a night at a Seals game to benefit the children served by the charity.

County employees, their families and friends can purchase tickets to the home season finale on April 27 against the Buffalo Bandits for $21, and $5 of each purchase will go to Children In Need. The Seals play at the Pechanga Arena San Diego on Sports Arena Blvd.

You can purchase tickets now at

Children In Need’s mission is to provide the necessary financial support for enrichment activities to assist children's participation in sports, arts and cultural interaction.

For more details or to make a donation directly to Children In Need, visit

Children in NeedSEALS.jpg

We ♥ These Customer Service Teams


It’s that time of year people are sending valentines to each other. In the same spirit, I’m expressing my admiration to some of our colleagues for their dedication to our customers. 

I didn’t offer a lace-trimmed card, but I was proud to present them the annual HEART of Service Award, the highest recognition we give to employees for providing exceptional customer service.

This year the honors go to four different teams. And yes, these are all team efforts. While there are many things we all do individually to help customers, pulling together increases the impact beyond the sum of the parts. Here’s a brief look at the work each did.   

Bridges Out of Poverty

Breaking the cycle of poverty has become a focus at the County. And like most of the social issues we deal with, poverty is complex and not suited to one-size-fits-all solutions. Child Support Services and the Public Safety Group Executive Office brought a training program called Bridges Out of Poverty to San Diego. About 250 County employees from 25 different departments attended. They got insight into behaviors of people who struggle with poverty and learned communications tactics to use when dealing with people from a variety of backgrounds.

Know Our Customers is one of the steps of our Journey to a Positive Customer Experience, and the team that put on this event did excellent work helping us improve that understanding.

Communicable Disease Investigators

The County initiative Getting to Zero is named for the number of HIV infections we want to see in the region. A lofty goal, but we’re steadily moving there thanks to the efforts of a team of communicable disease investigators.

“Investigator” doesn’t convey all they do. They work in a variety of ways to prevent new infections, encourage people at risk to be tested, and direct those infected into treatment. That requires a lot of direct communications, often in the field at people’s homes or other locations.

A person’s health is a highly private, sensitive matter. These investigators use compassion, empathy and all the traits of HEART in helping clients get services they need and taking steps to protect the public’s health.

Movies in the Park

Last year, more than 40,000 people spent an evening at a local park enjoying a movie, free of charge. It was the 11th year of the Summer Movies in the Park program, which takes advantage of San Diego’s great weather and outdoor locations to provide this family-friendly entertainment opportunity.

Making it easy for the moviegoers takes a lot of work on our end. Coordinating with other cities that host the events. Lining up sponsors, so we can offer these movies without charging admission and keep them open to everyone. Dealing with the licenses needed to show top-notch films. Getting the word out to residents and visitors that they have this option.

Like the crews that support the stars on screen, this Parks and Recreation team does an incredible job behind the scenes to bring this event series to life.

Project One for All

Repeating what I and others have said before: homelessness is a highly complex issue. It has to be addressed on multiple fronts together.

Project One for All is one such multifaceted approach. It provides treatment and housing for people with a serious mental illness who are experiencing homelessness. From 2016, when the Board of Supervisors approved the initiative, through last August, nearly 800 people have gotten the stability of a place to live combined with the mental health services they need.

Complex issues take coordinated efforts, and the team supporting the project cuts across several departments. It’s a great case of uniting in service of one common goal.

These are just a few standout examples of how we’re delivering a positive customer experience. The great news is they’re not unusual. I see so many of you wearing your HEART on your sleeve, so to speak, in so many ways, every day. I applaud all your efforts and thank you for keeping customers always front and center in everything we do.   

P.S. Speaking of heart, we’re coming up on our annual Love Your Heart blood pressure screening event. It takes place Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, and a number of County work sites will offer the screenings. Take a few minutes to know your numbers and help us make this year’s event the biggest ever. 

PerkSpot: Discounted Gym Membership


Burn calories – not money – by signing up for a gym membership through PerkSpot.

Get deals at 24-Hour Fitness, Curves, and Gold’s Gym. Perks range from waived registration fees to discounted monthly membership dues and even a free personal training session.

PerkSpot offers benefits and discounts through more than 400 service providers and retailers. Go to and shop. If you are new, click on “Create an Account” to register.

In addition, the YMCA waives registration fees for County employees.

The Exemptions Win!


More than a dozen teams took the field at Sweetwater Lane County Park this weekend in the Employee Wellness Intramural Softball Tournament. The event was a sure hit!

Congratulations to The Exemptions for clinching the championship. The runner-up was team Access Denied.

The Exemptions’ Roster:

·       Steve Alberto, Library

·       Michael Bautista, Purchasing and Contracting

·       Melanie Caramat, Purchasing and Contracting

·       Tanya Eames, Finance and General Government Group

·       William Eames, Purchasing and Contracting

·       Victoria Flores, Purchasing and Contracting

·       Oscar Garcia, Purchasing and Contracting

·       Rebecca Gomez, District Attorney

·       Jayme Gravett-Miller, Facilities Management

·       Randall Krogman, Purchasing and Contracting

·       Hugo Mora, Purchasing and Contracting

·       Jack Pellegrino, Purchasing and Contracting

·       Sabrina Powell, General Services

·       Carlos Santiago, Purchasing and Contracting

If you didn’t catch the tournament, see all the fun in this gallery.

700+ County Employees Participate in Homeless Count

It’s before 4 a.m., but Dinna Morris and Cecilia Wind and 38 other volunteers have gathered at the LGBT Community Center in Hillcrest, ready to begin their early morning task: count homeless people.

Morris and Wind and about 1,200 other people—more than 700 of them County employees—walked the streets, beaches and valleys across the region for the annual count of homeless people in San Diego County.

The Point-in-Time Count is spearheaded by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless and provides a one-day snapshot of people living on the streets or in short-term shelters. The results are used to apply for federal and state funding to help homeless people and find solutions on how to best serve this vulnerable population.

At the Center, the group of volunteers was divided into teams and headed out to walk the streets and alleys of Hillcrest, Old Town, Mission Hills and University Heights.

For four hours, they walked and drove, waking homeless people up to ask them a few questions to better understand what led them to live on the streets.

That’s how they came to find people like Willow, 43, who eagerly agreed to answer the short list of questions.

“You’re the people they warned us about,” said Willow laughing and referring to the fact that homeless people were notified in advance that volunteers would be roaming the streets to conduct the homeless count.

Brenda Velasco, a human services specialist with the County Northeast Family Resource Center, talks to a homeless man on University Ave. in Hillcrest.

Brenda Velasco, a human services specialist with the County Northeast Family Resource Center, talks to a homeless man on University Ave. in Hillcrest.

Willow, who was sleeping on the sidewalk on Harvey Milk Street, said she became homeless five years ago after leaving an abusive relationship. She said she has some physical disabilities and some mental health disorders that prevent her from working or keeping a stable home. For her participation in the survey, Willow got a pair of socks and a $10 gift card to Starbucks.

Before Willow, the counters came across Tucker, 56, who was sleeping outside the Center. He’s been sleeping in the streets for the past 10 days and is the second time he’s been homeless in the past two years. Tucker also got a pair of socks and $10 for McDonald’s.

Not every homeless person agreed to be interviewed. Some did not even wake up. In those instances, the counters filled out an even shorter questionnaire, which noted where they were sleeping.

County employees have participated in the homeless count for the past six years after Supervisor Greg Cox brought the issue to the County Board of Supervisors, which agreed to allow employees to participate in the count and get their regular pay.

“I always wanted to do the count but did not have the time until this year,” said Morris, a deputy agricultural commissioner with the County’s Land Use and Environment Group.

“I like volunteering and believe this is important work,” said Morris, adding that she will do the count again next year.

This was also the first homeless count for Wind, a mental health clinician with the County’s Public Conservator.

Norma Diaz, a human services specialist with the County HIV/STD Outpatient Clinic, interviews a homeless man.

Norma Diaz, a human services specialist with the County HIV/STD Outpatient Clinic, interviews a homeless man.

“I work with people who are mentally ill and homeless, so I have a passion for helping people out,” Wind said.

Last year, the region’s combined total came to 8,576 homeless people, the fourth highest number in the nation. They included veterans, families, victims of domestic violence, substance users, HIV/AIDS patients and the chronically homeless.

The results of this year’s homeless count will be released by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless later this spring.

Did you participate in the homeless count this year? Tell us about your experience in the comments!