Employee Recognition Awards - 2020
In 2020, our community was faced with monumental challenges including the COVID-19 global pandemic, as well as the CZU Lightening Complex fires, that required all County departments to respond and rethink the way we do our work. Each County employee deserves recognition for their dedication to continue providing uninterrupted services to the public and in many cases support our local residents as Disaster Service Workers or as support staff to the Health Services Agency DOC Call Center. In place of employee recognition by nominations, this year we want to recognize employees from each department for their dedicated service on behalf of the County of Santa Cruz.
- Staff in the Recorder’s Office worked tirelessly to set up remote workstations to record documents off-site, allowing staff to stay safe while keeping up with increased recording volume.
- Staff in the Assessor’s and Recorder’s Office assisted residents impacted by the CZU Lightning Complex fire at the Recovery Resource Center by connecting them with various agencies and providing information regarding property tax relief.
- Staff in the Assessor’s and Auditor-Controller’s Offices worked together to expediate property tax relief to victims of the CZU Lightning Complex fire relying on their long hours and years of experience working together to process these tax reductions quickly and efficiently.
- Staff in the Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office showed a tremendous amount of flexibility and resiliency during 2020 as vendor payment processing transitioned to an almost fully remote operation and new procedures were implemented to allow for electronic processing of wire transfers, bank transfers, and other types of reports and forms using DocuSign.
- County’s collection team processed over a thousand COVID-19 related penalty waiver applications and their was updated to be able to accept electronic collection payments and the Property Tax Administration team, in collaboration with the Assessor’s department, issued hundreds of supplemental tax credits in response to the CZU Lightning Complex fire and the unfortunate reductions of the assessed values of properties.
- In collaboration with the Personnel Department, staff processed hundreds of extra help employees hired to by the County to respond to the local emergencies, set up new pay codes for emergency response and COVID-19 related sick leave, and responded to the various payroll implications of having a remote County workforce.
Board of Supervisors
- Staffs in the Board of Supervisors Office helped to manage the County’s response to the fires and collaborated with county, state, and federal agencies as well as with non-profits to ensure that our community members who had lost so much received the assistance and support that they desperately needed.
- Staff fielded calls non-stop and worked tirelessly under impossible conditions to get information out to the public during the fires as well as connect community members with the most up to date information about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination.
- In an effort to continue to have a presence for their districts in spite of stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements, adaptations were made to improve remote access for constituents through video-conference town hall meetings and regular talks with community members and neighborhood groups.
County Administrative Office
- Staff in the County Administrative Officer’s Department responded tirelessly to the COVID-19 pandemic and CZU Lightning Complex fires by putting in countless hours staffing the Emergency Operations Center and serving as Disaster Service Workers to support a variety of functions, including planning, logistics, shelter, and care.
- The Clerk of the Board Division was able to move to on-line meetings for the Board of Supervisors in order to protect the health and safety of the community. The Cannabis Licensing Office was able to increase licenses and maintain effective compliance and enforcement activities.
- In 2020 staff managed not one but two budgets and continued to make progress on the County’s management initiatives, worked with departments to complete their objectives on time and, as it stands, the County remains on track to complete over 70% of the 180 objectives in the 2019-21 Operational Plan.
- In collaboration with technical assistance provider Focus Strategies, staff completed the draft three-year strategic framework to address homelessness and managed the smooth transition of homeless services coordination to the new Housing for Health Division.
- Staff in the County Clerk-Elections Office hosted voter outreach meetings through Zoom to provide information about the November 3, 2020 election and the changes that were being made to conduct it safely.
- Staff implemented a voter service center model which involved mailing a ballot to every registered voter and providing in-person voting locations with extended hours to help “flatten the voting curve” and encourage voters to vote in ways other than in-person on Election Day.
- Mobile voting units brought voting to all areas of the County including communities that were impacted by the CZU Lightening Complex fires and brought voting opportunities to the hospitals and senior living and care facilities where voters were not able to access voting easily.
- Staff worked with the Information Services Department to set up a voter hotline staffed by County employees which involved creating a special conference line that rolled voter hotline calls to various department buildings and phone systems and setting up restricted access to the voter registration database for the hotline operators to use to obtain information and help direct the voter.
- Staff in the County Counsel’s Office provided focused legal services to assist the Health Services Agency and Public Health Officer in responding to the COVID-19 crisis which included intense collaboration in order to draft public health orders, pivot and adjust as new information surfaced, and work with internal enforcement partners to implement these orders.
- Staff drafted emergency ordinances, contracts, resolutions, and directives to respond to the twin public emergencies to address shelter needs, eviction protections, increased services, debris clearance, and urgent needs for the purchase of goods, all of which helped to support our community in this extreme time of need
- Staff worked collaboratively and enthusiastically with the Civil and Juvenile divisions of the Superior Court to overcome logistical and technological hurdles and help ensure that the legal process in numerous matters continued to move forward at a reasonable pace despite the significant challenges presented by COVID-19.
- Just days after the CZU Lightening Complex fire erupted, staff in the General Services Department began taking steps to ready the County Warehouse to accept donations from the public, making this the first time the County had ever set up a location to accept community donations.
- Because the outpouring of support from the community was unmatched, a system for tracking donations was needed and assistance from the Auditor, Human Services, and County Counsel’s Departments led to the creation of a database for organizing the many items received, as well as developing the layout for receiving donations, coordinating requests for donations and subsequent delivery of the items to fire evacuees or the evacuation sites.
- As the community response continued to grow, staff realized the need for more space and collaborated with the Human Services Department to quickly open a secondary warehouse in Watsonville. Staff worked with the Volunteer Center to dispatch volunteers who assisted with donation collection at the warehouses and made deliveries to the various evacuation sites bringing much needed supplies to our displaced community members.
- Staff in the Information Services Department provided vital communication resources and support to the Office of Emergency Services and First Responders during and following the CZU Lightening Complex fire by providing remote communication abilities and technological resources to evacuation sites and command centers.
- Staff deployed laptops and printers for emergency response personnel, set up call centers in support of responding to the needs of evacuated citizens, and created real time county websites for fire victims and evacuees with maps of the impact of destruction and guidance for rebuilding.
- Staff completed major infrastructure changes and upgrades and created copious documentation on remote procedures to support the some 1,200 or more remote workers accessing county resources from home and elsewhere.
- Staff in the Personnel Department onboarded nearly 600 Disaster Services workers to staff the County’s Homeless and Evacuee Shelters and other disaster related services which required creating, testing, and implementing Emergency Same-Day hiring process.
- Staff collaborated with the Parks and Recreation Department to set up 5 childcare centers for essential County staff including negotiating space use with two non-County properties, managing logistics, and ensuring all COVID Safety guidelines were met.
- Staff collaborated with the County Administrative Office, the Information Services Department, and members of other departments to establish the County’s first Remote Work Policy which entailed researching best practices from our neighboring Counties as well as reaching out to private technology companies and other state and local jurisdictions for guidance.
Health and Human Services
Child Support Services
- Staff at the Department of Child Support services adjusted to working remotely by participating in training on the use of DocuSign, creating general email boxes for receiving and processing legal documents, reaching out to case participants with upcoming court dates to educate them on the new remote hearing procedures, and increasing the use of TextPro for text-based communication.
- Staff recognized that, in a year that was rife with financial insecurity for many people, adding enforcement actions for the failure to pay full child support would not be in the best interest of the families; thus, they were able to suppress certain collection actions allowing obligors to get back on their feet and begin making their child support payments in full again.
- Staff collaborated with the Health Services Agency to provided 16 surplus Voice Over Internet Protocol telephones to support the COVID-19 call center and contact tracing needs.
Health Services Agency
- Staff at the Health Services Agency lead the Department Operations Center for the COVID-19 response, implementing the SAVE Lives Action Plan whose highlights included mitigating the spread of COVID-19 through intensive case investigation, contact tracing, and the development of isolation and quarantine resources for the community.
- Staff has been committed to providing consistent and accurate information to the public, and using an equity lens in all decision making, including dedicating community outreach, resources, and activities to the South County and Latinx population, who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
- Staff worked diligently to open drive-through vaccination clinics and other vaccination sites in Santa Cruz County to serve our most vulnerable populations.
- Staff provided medical health leadership for the CZU Lightning Complex Fire emergency and were integral in the medical preparedness efforts for the planning of the Debris Flow evacuations.
Human Services Department
- The Human Services Department stepped up to lead COVID-19 care and shelter operations for vulnerable people experiencing homelessness and Extra-Help staff provided shelter management and logistical support in managing the collection and distribution of donations for fire survivors.
- Family and Children’s Services utilized remote meeting platforms to ensure that parents were able to maintain visits with their children achieving permanency for 77 children; meanwhile the Adult and Long-Term Care staff worked to ensure that older adults, persons with disabilities, and veterans had care, safe housing, and access to programs.
- Employment and Benefit Services were able to help over 6,400 individuals receive access to services from the Employment Development Department and the Collaborative Administrative teams ensured that all planned operations continued and quickly incorporated new tasks such as setting up an array of data collection mechanisms to support disaster services.
Land Use and Community Services
- Staff in the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office quickly formulated a plan for rapid deployment of much needed protective equipment in the Spring of 2020 as agriculture production in our region got underway and protective equipment was difficult to find.
- Staff organized the delivery of COVID-19 protective supplies and distributed information regarding access to COVID-19 testing, food resources, and rental assistance to farmworker housing locations in South County including the Buena Vista Migrant Center.
- Staff went out of their way to prioritize delivery of these protective supplies while continuing to complete their regular work assignments and on several occasions, this meant working long days, and working on weekends which staff did without hesitation.
Parks, Open Space, & Cultural Services
- During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Parks and Recreation Department supported our community by providing childcare to essential workers and, when shelter-in-place restrictions were relaxed, staff redesigned the childcare program to serve as on-site support for children connecting to their online remote learning classes.
- Maintenance staff continued to keep our parks and facilities clean and safe, despite the added risk of in person work, and put-up new signage at all parks describing COVID-19 guidelines and practices, which, in some cases, involved removing entire picnic tables to ensure social distancing.
- Maintenance staff assisted at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds erecting animal enclosures for livestock and pets displaced by the fire, as well as assisting in numerous logistics projects from delivering bottled water to the San Lorenzo Valley to helping clean up at fire evacuee shelters.
- Staff in the Planning Department performed intensive field and technical work to assess and characterize the geologic hazards within and outside of the CZU Lightening Complex fire Burn Area and organized information for communications about the debris flow hazard that resulted from the fire.
- Staff completed an accurate Damage Assessment throughout the burn area, which facilitated opening the area for the return of evacuees and continues to provide information needed for managing recovery and rebuilding within the area.
- Staff shifted to remote work without a loss of services to the public through the creation of an electronic intake system for Discretionary/Zoning Permits, virtual building and code compliance inspections, virtual public hearings for the Planning Commission, Zoning Administrator and other public meetings, and changes to other work flows and technologiesStaff shifted to remote work without a loss of services to the public through the creation of an electronic intake system for Discretionary/Zoning Permits, virtual building and code compliance inspections, virtual public hearings for the Planning Commission, Zoning Administrator and other public meetings, and changes to other work flows and technologies.
- The Department of Public Works had 120 staff members and over 10,000 hours involved in the CZU Lightning Complex fire response supporting the Emergency Operations Center, providing shelter support, and supporting the rebuild and repair process.
- Staff took a lead role in coordinating debris flow preparation efforts with Caltrans, Cal Fire, the Planning Department, the Sheriff’s Department, the Environmental Health Division, Santa Cruz County Fire, Local Fire Protection Districts, the City of Santa Cruz, Geographic Information Services, the Office of Emergency Services, Netcom, the Regional Water Quality Control Boards, the National Weather Service, and other organizations.
- Staff updated the County’s rain gauge monitoring system to add new rain gauges in the burn zone and created a new dashboard tied to debris flow trigger thresholds to help response units anticipate impending emergencies.
Public Safety and Justice
Animal Control Services
- Animal Services staff, volunteers, and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office worked tirelessly providing outstanding care to animals that were left behind due to the mandatory evacuations.
- Staff transferred in animals from shelters that had to close to the public due to COVID exposures and were able to get many of these animals adopted out to new homes.
- As a reflection of the commitment to serving all pets in need regardless of their owners’ financial circumstances, staff traveled to homeless encampments to vaccinate animals, allowed low-income community members to receive free vaccinations at the Shelter for their pets; and provided free food via a weekly Pet Food Pantry at the Shelter as well as through pet food distribution events in Watsonville.
- Staff in the District Attorney’s Office issued press releases to alert the community about CZU Lightning Complex fire-related scams that were taking advantage of fire victims and educated them on how to protect themselves.
- Staff worked with the Santa Cruz Superior Court to implement a system in which attorneys and parties could appear for court remotely, supported the courts in their transition to accepting documents for filing online, and, in collaboration with the Information Services Department, established an online payment system which helped to protect community members as well as staff by reducing the need for in person financial transactions.
- Staff implemented the Neighborhood Courts program, which is a community driven, pre-filing diversion program designed to divert low level misdemeanor offenses from entering the criminal justice system.
- In response to the CZU Lightening Complex fire, staff at the Juvenile Hall coordinated the relocation of detained youth to Santa Clara where they were cared for during the evacuation and the scope and scale of pretrial services significantly increased to serve as an alternative to incarceration which has been essential to protecting the health and safety of jail inmates and jail staff.
- Staff in the Juvenile and Adult Divisions shifted to curbside wellness checks focused on meeting the needs of youth and their families by providing assistance with remote learning, school supplies, food and baby items, as well as referrals for rental assistance, food distribution sites, and behavioral health support.
- In partnership with COE, PVUSD and CAB, the Student Success Project team worked to ensure students were supported with remote learning through the purchase and distribution of Chrome Books and the establishment of a tented resource center where families could get assistance with Google Classroom, information on resources, and children could access tutors and be assessed for other needs.
- Staff in the Sheriff’s Office worked closely with the Public Health Officer to educate local businesses and community members about the rapidly evolving nature of the health orders, which involved the enforcement of these orders swiftly implemented numerous new procedures and systems in both the Operations and Corrections Bureau's to better protect the community, staff, and the incarcerated population.
- Staff responded to many social justice civil unrest events to include regional mutual aid requests from outside the county while still providing robust services to the community.
- During the CZU Lightening Complex fire, staff successfully evacuated 70,000 residents from the San Lorenzo and Scotts Valley and remained in the impacted area for thirty-eight days providing security and other services.