InTouch – Acting Now for Future Generations


I bet you have a lot to do today. Lots of things that need your attention right now.

But running a government responsibly is not just about helping people today. It means operating and making decisions so our successors are able to help them decades from now.

That’s the essence of the word sustainability. If the term seems squishy, here’s a common definition: using only enough resources for this generation so we leave enough for the next generation to meet their own needs.

Well, that could mean a lot of things. And it does.

For one, it’s the same concept that drives our fiscal discipline, which is all about setting up a spending plan that won’t leave us short down the road.

But we tend to more than dollars. Most often when we talk about sustainability, we’re referring to the environment and our use of natural resources. Those are areas where the County has been taking action in a variety of ways for some time, in many cases long before we began grouping them under the term sustainability.

In recent years, those efforts have taken on urgency as the consequences of climate change have become more apparent. The threat means we need to take an array of concrete steps to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Our strategy for rising to that challenge is our Climate Action Plan, passed by the Board of Supervisors last year. It lays out more than two dozen measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decade and beyond.

This week we release our Climate Action Plan’s first Annual Report showing the progress we’ve made toward hitting those goals. That’s a snapshot, but the work is, of course, ongoing. We’ve also just created a Climate Action Plan website that will continually show progress updates and help us share the details of what we’re doing with the public. I hope you’ll take a look yourself.

The Climate Action Plan, or CAP, builds on several programs and frameworks the County has adopted over time related to sustainable practices, such as the General Plan, the Multiple Species Conservation Plan, and plans to address energy use, waste reduction, food systems and hazard mitigation. Many of you have been involved with creating and implementing these various plans. 

These efforts can all be grouped into a few broad areas: our own buildings and operations, things we do for the unincorporated area we oversee, and practices we promote for the public and employees. Let me give a few examples.

For us, sustainability starts at home, so to speak. All new County buildings must be zero net energy, meaning they produce at least as much energy as they consume through solar or other renewable energy sources. Libraries we’ve built in Alpine, Imperial Beach and Borrego Springs the last few years are zero net energy and examples of our buildings of the future.  And new buildings must be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. We have 81 LEED buildings already, with 33 of those at the highest level – Platinum.

We have several projects in the works adding solar to County facilities that together may reduce our entire electricity demand by 20 percent. Around our buildings, we’re putting in more drought-tolerant landscaping – one of the ways we’re cutting how much water we use. We’re transitioning our fleet – the cars and trucks employees use – to cleaner fuels and technology, with 40 electric cars in service and more on the way.

In the community, we’ve made solar permitting for homes fast and simple, offering an online process. More than 38,000 homes in the County’s unincorporated area now have rooftop solar.

We have a CAP goal to plant 14,000 trees by next year and are nearly there already. We’re well beyond our goal of acquiring land for conservation, picking up 2,200 acres last year alone. We’re working with residents to update community plans in ways that reduce the need for driving.

And we help residents with steps they can take to cut greenhouse gas emissions. To keep waste out of landfills, we teach people how to compost, give businesses guides on reducing food waste, and provide recycling bins to schools and apartments.

As is often the case when I give examples of things we’re doing, I’m only scratching the surface.

There are all the things we can do as individuals to help as well. Cutting out car trips is a big one. Remember the County reimburses the cost of many transit passes. MTS Free Ride Day is coming up Oct. 2, so consider giving it a try.

Compost if you can. I bet that was a key for some of our colleagues who recently showed off their gardening skills.

Around the home or workplace, remember the basics: turn off lights when you’re not using them, and don’t let water run unnecessarily. It all adds up. You’ll find more ideas on the Take Climate Action section of the CAP website.

We’re also becoming increasingly aware of the public health risks linked to climate change. Hotter conditions and drought leave us more susceptible to wildfires and the smoke that can blanket the region, posing a danger to people with respiratory and other chronic conditions. Climate change means habitat change, so that the region becomes more hospitable to mosquitoes and other disease carriers.

Those relationships between public health and sustainability will be among the items on the agenda at next month’s Live Well Advance. The annual meeting brings together our partners who share the vision of a region that’s healthy, safe and thriving. I’ve tried to convey here how sustainability runs through many things we do. And it is woven into the Live Well San Diego vision that we all play a part in realizing.  

InTouch - Our Canine Colleagues


As we head into the dog days of summer, I wanted to give a little attention to one particular group within our extended County family. They work like dogs – because they are.

Yes, dogs fill a variety of roles for us here, some well-known, others more surprising. It takes a lot of talents combined to do the County’s business, and while you all do amazing work, there are some ways you just can’t compete with our canine colleagues.

We love our furry friends just for being themselves. But understanding some of the ways dogs help us help the public, you may love them that much more. Let me give a few examples.


For a decade now, the District Attorney’s Office has been providing comfort dogs to witnesses testifying in court. It’s often for child victims having to recount traumatic experiences. The Court Dogs are right there with them on the witness stand, helping make the process as manageable as possible. The dogs are therapy dogs, and their handlers are all volunteers. In recent years, they’ve been on hand for more than 100 witnesses a year.

We’re using dogs’ remarkable noses to help guard against agricultural pests. The Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures has a couple detector dogs they use to sniff around mailing centers for packages containing fruits, vegetables or other plants. Those can carry pests or diseases that could mean disaster for local growers, so it’s critical we stop them before entering the area. This past fiscal year, detector dogs alerted inspectors to over 350 parcels with plants, with 34 interceptions of harmful pests.

The video features Tuk, who’s now retired. Podder and Yeti are the dogs currently on detector duty.

Several of our County Library branches have programs that bring in dogs and let children read to them. Some kids are nervous about reading aloud. Dogs accept us as we are – our favorite trait of theirs – and don’t mind if we have trouble with difficult words. So by reading to the dogs, children can practice and gain confidence in their ability.



Our Medical Examiner, Dr. Glenn Wagner, has a German shepherd named Romeo that helps with the department’s unfortunate but essential work of finding and recovering human remains. He’s also trained to sniff out drugs. Romeo has assisted both the ME’s office and outside agencies. And, bonus points, Dr. Wagner adopted Romeo from County Animal Services.

Our approach to juvenile justice has changed dramatically in recent years. We now understand that many of the young people who get into trouble come from difficult or even traumatic circumstances. Putting them on the road to future success includes addressing emotional needs. One way we do that is to have regular visits from therapy dogs at juvenile hall. The dogs are a calming, comforting presence, and as you would expect, the program is very popular with the youths.


Everybody’s familiar with the Sheriff’s K-9s. The department has 31 dogs in the unit. They all go through an initial 12-week training, then train for 16 hours each month. They protect their deputy partners, track suspects, search for evidence and detect drugs. Most of the K-9s work up to 10 years, then after retirement, stay with their handlers.

Also with Sheriff, but a distinct unit, is the Search and Rescue K-9 Unit. These are the dogs of volunteers, and both handlers and dogs go through extensive training to be part of the team. They can be called in to search for missing persons. They also have the grim task of finding human remains after a natural disaster or help solve murder cases. They are ready to respond 24/7 to a variety of circumstances and help not just the Sheriff but other law enforcement agencies anywhere in the country.

The Sheriff’s Search and Rescue K-9 Unit trains earlier this year.

When off duty, the unit’s leader, Pam Medhurst, visits local libraries and schools to give a safety presentation to help prevent kids from getting lost. It's called Don't Run Around, Stay Found. Her best pal Simon and her beagle Banjo engage children of all ages.

The Sheriff's Department also has a Goodwill Ambassador in Teddy the Goldendoodle. With his owner, Sergeant Daniel Sloppye, they read to children at local libraries and represent the agency at community events.

Teddy even helped us get the word out about the importance of making pets part of your emergency preparedness plans.

Our County workforce is large and accomplished. But we’re clear we can’t do everything our customers need alone. We need partners of all kinds to make the collective impact we want, and dogs are part of that network, filling unique roles and helping us unleash – yes, I said it – our full potential.

If all this has left you thinking of adding a pet partner of your own, don’t forget our Animal Services. They have lots of dogs, cats and more waiting for forever homes.

Let’s give a hand, and a paw, to our canine colleagues and their handlers for their contributions. And thanks to all of you for your dogged efforts in serving our customers. Whether you’re at Dog Beach or other relaxing spot of your choice, I hope you’re enjoying summer in San Diego.

InTouch – Free and Fun, Thanks to the County


Summer is here! Many County employees are taking days off, spending time with kids on break from school, hosting out of town guests, or simply enjoying all San Diego has to offer.

But keeping yourself and others entertained... well, the costs can add up. We know it’s a common concern because for the last few years, we’ve put a story called 31 Free Things to Do in July, or variations on that, on our County News Center, and it’s always one of the most popular pieces of the year.

We’ve brought it around again: a list of 100+ events and activities the County puts on at various venues. There really is something for everybody.

I thought I’d share a few things from this year’s list. One, because you’re like any members of the public, looking for fun and interesting things to do.

Two, I wanted to point out that this is one more example of the phenomenal variety of opportunities the County provides. This is a handful of activities from one month – a mere sliver of what we offer all over, all year round. Much of it is no cost, outside of modest parking fees in some cases. So, for starters:

We celebrate the Fourth of July in a few days. San Diego’s biggest fireworks show takes place over the bay, and one of the prime spots to watch is our Waterfront Park. For the more adventurous, that night the County is also hosting a combination of fireworks viewing and stargazing with a Star Party at Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve. 

Catch a performance of a Japanese storytelling tradition called kamishibai at the Lakeside Library on July 17 or the Vista Library July 18.

On July 18, you can picnic with goats at Los Penasquitos Ranch House. Wha-a-a-a-at? Yes, meet Nubian goats while learning about local ranch life in the 1800s.

Kids love stories. Kids love water. They can enjoy both at a Baby Splish Splash, an outdoor story time and water play activity at the Rancho Santa Fe Library July 10 and 24.

Time to get growing. Take Vegetable Gardening 101 at the La Mesa Library July 27, taught by a master gardener (that’s also a program the County sponsors).

The series goes well beyond July, but the month includes several showings from Summer Movies in the Park. We and local cities team up for this hugely popular event each year that hits every corner of the county. Families can enjoy entertainment for all ages, in beautiful outdoor settings, at no cost. 

How about a whole family-friendly expo with music and activities? That’s part of the County’s Live Well San Diego 5K and Kids 1-mile Fun Run, July 28 at the Waterfront Park. Don’t think you have to be a runner to come down and have a good time. I hope one way or another you’ll join this celebration that embodies our vision of a region that’s healthy, safe and thriving. 

If summer gives you a chance to take it easy, great, please enjoy it to the fullest. But all these activities – and again, this is just a tiny sample – should show you that for some of our County colleagues, this is a busy season. Each one of these takes multiple, many even, people to make it happen. I appreciate the hard work of everyone involved to offer San Diegans, our employees included, such a rich variety of opportunities for fun and growth. 

One other event this month to note: As part of Pride weekend in San Diego, we’ll be lighting the CAC in rainbow colors. On July 11, we’ll host a community celebration outside the building to kick it off. It will be a highly visible sign of our commitment to serving all our residents and providing a welcoming environment to all our employees.

Take a look at the Free Things article, and let that be a jumping off point to even more County events. Whether you’re taking advantage of what the County is offering, or busy helping offer it – and of course, you could be doing some of both – I wish you all a safe and enjoyable summer!

InTouch – Mapping Your Career Path at the County


The County does an incredible variety of things. And it takes a pretty vast variety of job positions to get them done.

As you move through your professional life, you can find a lot of opportunities for growth and new challenges while remaining in the County. In fact, we really encourage it and want to help you get there. The County can be a career, not just a job.

I mentioned in the recent Who We Are profile of our workforce that about 2,000 employees were promoted last year. That’s 2,000 existing staff re-energized by taking on new responsibilities. And it’s 2,000 times we didn’t have to bring someone onboard from outside and get them up to speed on County culture and procedures. That works out for all of us. 

Where is a next stepping stone from where you are now? Or if you have your eyes set on a particular job, how do you get there?

There’s no single way to move from position to position. But there are some suggested career paths you can follow.

Our Human Resources department has laid out over two dozen of these paths. For clerical work, IT, law enforcement, social work and many more. They show what would be typical next steps up or lateral moves from a current position.

They’re a great tool, but again, those are suggested. They can be adapted, and we all wind up making our own ways. To give you some real world examples of what’s possible, we asked a few employees who have held multiple County jobs to share their paths with us.

Mavette Sadile, now with the County Technology Office, has quite a history here – especially for someone still on the early side of her career. Here’s her path:

Junior Clerk, HHSA -> Intermediate Clerk Typist, HHSA -> Payroll Clerk, HHSA -> Senior Payroll Clerk, HHSA -> ERP Specialist, HHSA -> ERP Analyst, Human Resources -> ERP Analyst, Auditor & Controller -> Departmental Technology Systems Specialist, Treasurer-Tax Collector -> IT Contract Manager, County Technology Office

“I had no idea how big the County was as an organization or the vast job opportunities it offered when I started working at the County 18 years ago,” Mavette said. “I was very fortunate to have had co-workers and supervisors along my journey who supported my professional goals, shared their lessons learned, and gave career advice and insights.”

Jiri Rutner is with the Health and Human Services Agency – again!

Human Services Specialist, HHSA Eligibility -> Administrative Analyst, Public Works -> Administrative Analyst II, Behavioral Health Services, first as Contract Analyst, then Program Analyst ->  Procurement Contracting Officer, Purchasing & Contracting -> Program Coordinator, Behavioral Health Services

“One of my favorite things about working for the County of San Diego is that things are often more complicated than they seem,” Jiri said. “Unintended consequences are an integral part of what we do, and for me that leads to an exciting and dynamic work environment.”

Nadia Moshirian Binderup recently started with the Sheriff’s Department. Here’s how she got there:

Intern, Board of Supervisors -> Legislative Aide, Board of Supervisors -> Policy Advisor, Office of Strategy and Intergovernmental Affairs ->  CAO Staff Officer, Community Services Group -> Community Relations Director, Sheriff’s Department

“My previous roles with the County provided me great insight on policy development and operations while understanding the significance of cross-functional threading – all while helping me get exposed to the ‘big picture’ of the County enterprise,” Nadia said. 

Thanks Nadia, Jiri and Mavette for sharing your stories. I think it’s helpful to see some actual cases and important to note the paths are not always along neat lines.

Whether it’s a mapped career path or one of your own, HR offers a lot of resources to help you move along it. Most positions take a number of “soft skills.” We provide regular trainings in areas like managing up, giving presentations, facilitating discussions, customer service and more.

There are also trainings focused on the hiring process itself. Resume writing. Interviewing techniques. Taking Civil Service exams.

For all these trainings, you can search the LMS or keep an eye out for the regular professional development emails sent to all employees.

Your annual performance review is an ideal time to sit down with your supervisor, discuss your development and goals, and together come up with a career path plan that makes sense for you.

Some of the most important advice I can give you is to seek out and talk to a variety of people. Ask employees in positions you want to be in how they got there. Get in touch with your department’s HR rep and go over possibilities. Ask managers and executives what they look for when moving people up. Our leaders welcome opportunities to provide their expertise and guidance to you. They like to see employees ready to step up. 

So do I. I think constantly about how we make sure the County as a whole keeps stretching itself. We’ll have a lot more success with that when employees are looking ahead at how they can improve and expand their contributions. I hope you’ll take advantage of the development opportunities we have, and I look forward to us all growing together.

InTouch - Five Stars for Our Work on Mental Health

It’s one thing for me to tell you we do excellent work. But there’s nothing like hearing it right from our customers. Like this message from a grateful parent:


Yes, that’s a Yelp review, a place it may surprise you to see feedback on such a serious matter. Take it as one more sign of the changing environment we find ourselves in as we work on mental health and substance use issues, which we refer to together as behavioral health. The changes, the challenges, and the opportunities we’re seeing in this realm are as dramatic as any we’re grappling with. Maybe most noteworthy for you as employees is that our efforts are affecting more of you than ever before.

It is an enormous challenge. Nearly one in ten adult San Diegans suffers a psychiatric crisis in any given year. About the same number has a substance use disorder. The rise in opioid misuse and overdose deaths has made national headlines, and it’s a troubling trend here as well. Suicides have increased. Behavioral health is a major factor in homelessness.

And as with homelessness, we can’t deal with behavioral health in isolation. It’s become increasingly clear that the issues we see are interwoven with an incredibly complex set of social factors, in addition to each person’s unique needs. Complex issues will take complex, multidimensional approaches to address.

At the same time, the hospital industry is undergoing shifts of its own. It’s typically been designed to set a broken arm rather than tend to the less straightforward care of a broken psyche.

People like our Yelp reviewer will attest to the quality of care we offer. But the County has always been just one part of a health care system that includes hospitals, treatment facilities, and a variety of medical providers. And while collaboration is not new, we are really stepping up the ways we coordinate care, both internally across our departments and with the whole medical community. Let me give a few examples of things we’re doing and areas for future focus.

The availability of psychiatric beds in the region has recently jumped up our list of priorities. The County’s expansion plan will add roughly 150 long-term care and step-down beds, the latter helping people transition out of acute care. We’ll also build the ability to serve 300 people through Assertive Community Treatment, an array of services paired with housing for those in that step-down phase.

The number of staffed beds at the County Psychiatric Hospital will increase to 82. We’re having conversations with health care providers throughout San Diego County on ways we might collaborate to offer treatment.

No Place Like Home is a state initiative voters approved last November to help people with serious mental illness who are, or at risk of becoming, homeless. We’ve requested $125 million from the program to help develop supportive housing, which is a place to live combined with behavioral health services. That’s in addition to several other supportive housing efforts targeting the nexus of homelessness, housing affordability and ongoing care, such as Project One For All and several hundred units made possible through Mental Health Services Act funds. Our Children, Youth and Family System of Care is working with a contractor and the City of San Diego to develop the first family-oriented supportive housing program.

We’re looking at taking currently unused County property and creating a behavioral health services hub. An initial site in Hillcrest would take advantage of nearby hospitals to create integrated, whole person care. But we may eye other County property for critically needed behavioral health services.

That potential expansion is important, because in a region as large as ours, and a population as spread out as it is, we need to make sure resources are distributed broadly. That includes those proposed hubs, but any of the behavioral health services we’ve been talking about.

This past year has seen a dramatic increase in the availability of care through what’s called Drug Medi-Cal, which makes it possible for the state insurance to cover substance use treatment programs. As part of that, the providers of those programs are now paid by services delivered, rather than simply reimbursing their costs, making them more effective for the client.

One area we’ll strengthen even more is the coordination between behavioral health and the justice system. That includes expanding PERT: psychiatric emergency response teams, which pair mental health clinicians with law enforcement officers. Not just more teams, but more follow-up with the people they help. Again, moving from cases in isolation to a more comprehensive approach.

We will be focusing on the development of community-based crisis stabilization centers, where people can easily access trauma-informed care and law enforcement can efficiently transport people for care close to their homes.

As we are with many County operations, we’re ramping up our use of data to drive our efforts. With something so big and complex, that number-crunching is invaluable to getting our resources focused in the right direction.

As a department, Behavioral Health Services is second only to our Sheriff’s Department in levels of funding you’ll see in the County budget. It’s getting $658 million this year and added more than 100 positions. Final details are being hammered out for the coming year’s budget, out in a few days, but expect more dollars and staff. The total we devote to these services shows it is now a top priority. Credit to our Board of Supervisors for showing their commitment to addressing these needs by bringing many of the ideas forward and then backing them up with resources.

I can’t mention this topic without a reminder to be aware of the behavioral health needs of our employees and their families. Please remember our Employee Assistance Program is there for you. It offers counseling, free and anonymous. Don’t hesitate to bring up concerns with your primary care doctor. Our Access and Crisis Line is not just for the public. Anyone can use it, 24/7, at 888-724-7240.

May is Mental Health Month, a time to raise awareness about this essential aspect of our well-being. It’s also a good time to spread awareness about some of what the County is doing. Often in my columns, I’m barely scratching the surface. If tackling behavioral health is not an audacious goal, I don’t know what is. Thank all of you who have a hand in, and will continue to be involved with, helping us serve these vulnerable residents.

InTouch - Who We Are


It’s important to know our customers. And since we need to serve our fellow employees every bit as well as we do the public, we also need to know our colleagues. You know many individually. But as a group, who are we, what do we look like?


Our County team is around 17,000 strong, and as you’d expect with that many people, we’re a varied bunch.

Sometimes it might seem like a lot of employees have been here a long time, and of course, many have. But the numbers show that’s not the whole story. Last year, 1,451 employees joined the County from the outside (welcome!). Everything is new to them – from their daily duties to understanding our culture.

Roughly another 2,000 existing employees were promoted (congratulations!). That’s almost 3,500 people in new positions. That’s a lot of learning, a lot of people who need help getting into their roles so they can be successful. 


In fact, nearly 6,000 of us have been here under five years! If you’ve been around for a while and are ever tempted to think something is common knowledge, remind yourself how new many of our colleagues are. Help them along. If you’re new, don’t be afraid to ask about things. We know there’s a lot to pick up. 

A handful are really in it for the long haul. Fourteen employees have been here 40 years or more, with our longest-serving worker at 47 years!

Our workers range from 20 to 83 years old, with an average age of 44. The average for the national workforce is about 42. So we’re a touch older, but not much.  

You can expect some of the next generation to come from those who are now student workers. We had 391 last year. Our District Attorney’s Office had the highest number of any department: 93.


We tilt pretty heavily female. Our workforce is 59 percent women, and it’s been that way for a while. County jobs don’t mirror those of society at large. We have a lot of positions in fields that tend to disproportionately draw women.

Our largest age group is 27-40 years old, approximately the range we know as millennials, aka Gen Y. They make up about 41 percent of our workforce. They’ve nosed ahead of the next group, those 41-56, roughly Gen Xers, who are just over 39 percent. Then Boomers, 57-73, still make up about 15 percent. The incoming Gen Z, people up to age 26, are already 5 percent. We still have a few Silent Generation members, 74 years old and up, on the job. We’ve talked pretty extensively about some of the differences, but it’s really exciting to get to work with people across five generations. We can learn so much from each other.


Racial/ethnic identities can get quite complex, but at a high level, here’s how we break down and how that compares to the San Diego region at the last census: 0.6 percent American Indian/Native American (compared to 0.5 percent in San Diego overall). Nearly 19 percent Asian or Pacific Islander (vs. 12 percent locally). Almost 8 percent black/African American (to 4.6 percent of San Diegans). 32.6 percent Hispanic/Latino (vs. 28.3 percent of residents). And just over 40 percent are white (vs. 54.5 percent regionally).  


Almost 2,000 of our County employees are sworn officers. That includes Sheriff’s personnel, Probation officers, District Attorney investigators.


In recent years we’ve worked harder to get veterans of the armed forces to join us, and they now make up 6.6 percent of our employees. We thank them for their service and for continuing to serve the public with us.

That’s a quick snapshot of our employees as a whole and some indication of the diversity within our County team. But only some indication. We’re diverse in all kinds of ways we don’t gather statistics for: where we’re from, the culture our families shared with us, our beliefs, our challenges, our passions, and the whole gamut of life experiences. We fall into many different categories that make each of us unique and interesting. And when we bring our individual talents and backgrounds together, it makes exciting teams!

Looking at these numbers is fun but also has a purpose. I share them to help us better understand our fellow employees, so we might serve each other, and in turn the public, better. Because regardless of all these other groups we may be a part of, it’s the qualities we bring to our jobs that really define us at the County. Respectful, attentive, compassionate, hardworking public servants – that's who we are. 

InTouch – How Engaged Are You? Results from Our Survey


This month I want to talk about the results of our recent Employee Engagement Survey. But before I do, I want to acknowledge Employee Appreciation Day and offer all of you my sincere thanks for the work you do.

Though we’re singling out today to make a big display of gratitude for your efforts, please know I feel it in my heart every day. We could not be a successful organization without YOU. I’m always humbled by your dedication and proud of your desire to make life better for our residents. And, like many people, I need to be better about saying it more often! Thank you! You are amazing, and I’m truly grateful you have chosen to work here at the County.

I think it’s timely that the results of our recent engagement survey coincide with Employee Appreciation Day. The survey is a look into how we feel in our County jobs. “Employee engagement” can be kind of a fuzzy concept. It describes your emotional relationship with the organization.

I want each of you to feel engaged, one, because I hope on a personal level that you have a sense of connection and fulfillment in a place you spend so much of your life. But two, as the one tasked with overseeing this operation, I have a strong interest in performance. Research shows an engaged workforce has higher goal achievement and higher retention rates. An engaged employee is a happy employee, and a happy employee is more productive. A happier workforce is also a healthier workforce, and that’s one more way we make Live Well a reality.

We emailed the survey out in December and about 22 percent of you responded. Not bad, but definitely the first area of improvement to work on. It’s important to hear from as many of you as possible, so we want to get the number of responses up.

I won’t go through every question, but here are a few results.      


Seventy-four percent of you say you feel motivated to work for the County, and 78 percent get a feeling of personal accomplishment. A solid majority of you feel you’re making a difference in the lives of those you serve. That’s pretty good but an area where maybe we can do a little better.

Ninety percent of you understand how your job contributes to the success of your department. I’m encouraged by that. We spend a lot of time on aligning efforts to strategic goals. It’s easy to get caught up in details and lose sight of the big picture, but the number tells me we’re on the right track there. 


Seventy-three percent say your skills are being used effectively. Pretty good, but it also sounds like a fair amount of untapped potential, so that’s an area we’ll need to work on.

Are we getting along? Eighty-nine percent say you have a good relationship with co-workers, while 82 percent say you have a good relationship with your supervisor. Not hard to see how that makes employees happier, and in turn, more productive and again, healthier.


About three-quarters of you feel your department values diversity and inclusion, and that you can be your authentic self at work. We made D&I one of our priorities a few years ago, so I’m heartened by these results and will continue to focus on ways to further our D&I efforts as they go directly to employees’ comfort level at work and our ability to meet the needs of all our customers.

OK, our biggest Needs Improvement grade: recognition. We know how important this is. It’s part of our General Management System. It’s part of our Journey to a Positive Customer Experience. But only 43 percent of you feel you’re frequently rewarded or recognized for good work. We’ve got to do better than that.


Putting in hard work feels so much different when you know someone sees it, appreciates it, and most of all, shares it with others. More formal recognition and awards are great. But don’t forget the day-to-day thank-yous and acknowledgments. Research shows the more immediate the recognition, the greater impact it has. We should be maximizing impact in anything we do.

A lot of that message I’m directing at supervisors. Let’s really work on it. But no one should overlook peer-to-peer recognition, either. It can mean a lot to a co-worker to hear from someone who understands exactly what their job takes. 

This is where we need your help, too.  As I’ve mentioned, recognition can mean different things to different people. If there’s a specific way you like to be acknowledged for good work, make sure to talk with your supervisor about it. We want to make it meaningful to you!

This is the first year we’ve done the Employee Engagement Survey, so this let us set our benchmarks. Here’s an overview of results for all the questions. We’re sharing it with our leadership across the organization, and they’ll be working out how we boost that engagement.

This all brings us back to Employee Appreciation Day. I hope we can make it not just an opportunity to show our thanks, but a day we commit to building habits of gratitude, as individuals and as an organization. That will have a big part to play in how engaged everyone feels.

Only one way to end this: Thanks again, so much, today and every day, for all you do.   

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. 

InTouch – Happy New Era!


Happy New Year!  Are you ready to roll?

I hope so, because this new year kicks off a new era at the County. On January 7, two new members will be sworn in to our Board of Supervisors. Welcoming two at one time is a first for me and all but the most veteran County employees. It’s been 24 years since two new board members were sworn in!

When I say a new era, I’m talking not only about the current board transition, but the practice of regular turnover in elected leadership since term limits are in place. The maximum time an elected official can serve as a supervisor is two terms. So our culture must adapt to continuous change.

New elected leadership means new policies and more dynamic shifts in priorities. Our successes of the past will be the foundation for the successes of the future. Old ways of doing things may be reviewed, tweaked or maybe even discarded.  And new ideas and initiatives will be implemented. 

Where we direct our energies might shift. But who we are won’t. We’ll remain dedicated to exceptional public service and the principles of HEART. We’ll demand the highest ethical standards. We’ll encourage innovation and continuous improvement in all areas of our operations.  We’ll be outcome driven and expect excellence in all that we do. 

Over the past several decades, we’ve never stood still, and we’ve shown great flexibility in responding to new demands. Now we’ll need to step it up and be even more nimble than we’ve ever been, as individuals and as an organization.

Our new supervisors and their staffs have an adjustment to make as well. Think back to the learning curve you faced when you got to the County. It’s a big, complex operation. All those acronyms! They’ll need our help in showing them how we function and how the fresh ideas they bring to the table can make their way into what we do.  

The familiar is comforting – but change is exciting. Invigorating, even. Embrace it! And as you do, reflect on some new year’s resolutions of your own. As I’ve talked to employees over the past couple weeks here are a few they’ve shared:

  • Solve problems, don’t just share them.

  • Be a positive force in our residents’ lives.

  • Listen more.

  • Appreciate and help co-workers.

  • Become more tech savvy.

  • Use social media to help, not to criticize.

  • Take a daily walk or run to enjoy the beauty of San Diego (exercise is a side benefit!).

  • Turn off the TV, set the phone aside and have a face-to-face conversation.

  • Smile more.

  • Relax – everything isn’t a crisis.

  • Make at least one unexpected good thing happen every day for someone.

As we close 2018, let me reiterate how grateful I am to each of you for your hard work and dedication this past year. Your commitment was extraordinary. Now, let’s ring in the new era together. We have many exciting achievements ahead. Let’s get going! 

InTouch – Look at What You’ve Done!

InTouch – Look at What You’ve Done!

Each of us stays so busy with the day-to-day demands of our own jobs that it can be hard to get a sense of how all our work adds up. And the County does such a vast variety of things, any one of us won’t be aware of much of what our colleagues are up to.

When you get a big picture look at a full year’s worth of accomplishments and services delivered, it’s pretty darn amazing.

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InTouch – Use It or Not, Social Media is Changing Us

InTouch – Use It or Not, Social Media is Changing Us

Love it or hate it? With social media, it’s easy to be torn between the two.

It’s a great way to keep up with friends, share pictures of the kids, get recommendations, and be entertained. In the wrong hands, it can be manipulative and a weapon.

You can use it to expand your horizons or build a bubble. You can efficiently keep tabs on news and professional topics or get sucked into hours of mindless nonsense.

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Walk the HEART Talk

Walk the HEART Talk

Hard to believe, but we’re coming up on four years since we started our Customer Experience Initiative and spread the message of serving with HEART. Since it was rolled out, I’ve been delighted at how fired up people get about it, making decorations, coming up with departmental recognition, sharing Positive Experiences and so on.

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A Salute to Our Sheriff’s Department

A Salute to Our Sheriff’s Department

We have a number of priorities as a County. But public safety is at the top of the list. You need that basic sense of security before we can strive for our many other worthy goals.

Many departments and programs play a part in that. I want to take a minute to recognize the most visible members of our public safety efforts: the men and women of our Sheriff’s Department.

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How We Make San Diego a Great Place to Live… and Visit

How We Make San Diego a Great Place to Live… and Visit

Summertime in San Diego, and the livin’ is… busy.

We get visitors all year round, but summer is the season we’re especially teeming with tourists. While we may not be crazy about the crowds, we know tourism is a major driver of the local economy. More than 35 million people came to the region last year, spending billions of dollars.

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