CAO's Newsletter - February 6, 2019

Dear County Staff,

It has been a few months since we updated you on progress around the County. With Measure G overwhelmingly approved by voters in November, we are beginning to keep our promises by addressing our community's critical unmet needs. The rollout of our Focused Intervention Team is underway, and we are getting started with several parks and public facilities improvements. We are also expanding our work to address local homelessness (more on this later).

Furthermore, our team continues to build upon its successes, with Public Works recently taking home awards from the American Public Works Association for the Davenport Recycled Water Project and Twin Lakes Beachfront Improvements. Please join me in congratulating them.

These kinds of successes spring from a talented and empowered workforce. On that front, we are continuing to carry our workplace improvement initiatives forward, and I wanted to give you all an update on where we are.


Many of you are familiar with our PRIMO! Continuous Process Improvement efforts. For those who need a refresher, PRIMO is accessible from the County Intranet page here: http://sccintranet/Departments/County-Administrative-Office/PRIMO.

We have made some amazing progress as we work empower a culture of employee-driven, customer-oriented workplace improvement. Many departments have nominated demonstration projects, which have been chosen. But before we get into those, I wanted to get into one quick story about a simple but important improvement that came out of this process.

As you all know, Santa Cruz County is not alone in struggling with the issue of homelessness. At one of our PRIMO! employee engagement mixers, staff in our Parks Department recently voiced a desire to improve their communication with this population, particularly those with mental illness. The Health Services Agency provided a solution -- trauma-informed training to help improve outcomes based on those interactions. Parks field staff will begin this training beginning in March, and we are all hopeful interactions will become less frustrating for both sides.

As I mentioned earlier, we have chosen a number of demonstration projects. One of the first was the inter-departmental Permitting Improvement Effort – PRIMO! PIE. Right out of the gate, the team made significant progress on our large, multi-department efforts to understand how the permitting experience impacts our customers. Staff from numerous departments met over a week to map out, in detail, the current permitting process from start to finish and brainstorm ways to make it easier for everyone involved, both customers and staff. There was broad consensus that many of the challenges with the current system evolved over many years, and it was extremely helpful to step back and objectively review how things really work. All staff involved came away from those meetings with a better understanding of how their work connected, that there is ample opportunity address some of the deficiencies in our system quickly, and that some improvements will take more concerted ongoing effort. The team is participating in our Green Belt Continuous Process Improvement training to dig into the more complex improvement ideas and develop implementation plans for later in the spring.

On January 21, more than 40 staffers attended our Champions Leader work training, from supervisors to department heads and with good representation from most departments. The training focused on the role of organizational leaders in supporting continuous improvement and empowering teams. Our PRIMO! Liaisons had their second meeting on January 22. We have 24 liaisons from 16 departments. Liaisons are meeting monthly to receive updates, ask questions, get training, and network with liaisons from other departments.

The first session of Green Belt training began January 28, and will eventually include eight days of highly interactive in-person training between January and April. Participants will work on improvement projects throughout the class sessions, pushing their improvements while under the tutelage of an experienced practitioner. We have a cohort of 28 staff members, representing 10 different departments, and working on at least 11 supported process improvement projects within the County.

Lastly, a one-hour, online White Belt training is also available for all County staff through PRIMO portal, and provides a great introduction to process improvement. You can find it on our Learning page.


With our Strategic Plan in place, we have been working diligently to implement a two-year operational plan that will help guide our work. Eventually, we will have three of these operational plans during the six-year life of the Strategic Plan. We have formed committees tasked with creating countywide strategies for each of the Strategic Plan’s six focus areas: Comprehensive Health and Safety, Attainable Housing, Reliable Transportation, Sustainable Environment, Dynamic Economy and County Operational Excellence.

Departments are also forming SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely) objectives, drawing from existing department-level strategic plans, as well as community-based strategic plans. These objectives will be organized by our strategies and be aspirational while prioritizing existing and ongoing work by our talented County staff. Some objectives will be contained within one department, but many will not be and will demand our continued efforts and attention, as well as the skills we've developed through other ongoing efforts such as PRIMO, the Leadership Academy, Performance Measurement and more.

On February 26, the County Administrative Office will make a presentation on our progress to the Board of Supervisors, and I would invite everyone interested in learning more about the work we've done so far to watch. The presentation will be followed by additional community and stakeholder engagement as we head toward final Operational Plan adoption in June.


We're very pleased to announce that the CSAC Institute for Excellence in County Government has opened up a satellite campus here in Santa Cruz County. Many of you know the California State Association of Counties as the preeminent voice for counties in Sacramento, and their professional development programs have help improve government operations at all levels.

We worked with CSAC to locate courses here, which increases development opportunities for our staff and reduces travel times. Their first course for elected officials and staff both within Santa Cruz County and in neighboring counties was "Storytelling and Other Practices in the Art of Persuasion," and was taught by CSAC Institute Dean Bill Chait. We look forward to many more sessions to come!


On January 18, the Homeless Action Partnership released a request for proposals for state funding through the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) and California Emergency Solutions and Housing (CESH) programs. Together, these program present an unprecedented opportunity to address homelessness at the local level. The Homeless Action Partnership has also set aside $1 million for emergency housing and public health needs

Homelessness has been local issue for multiple decades, exacerbated by our high cost of living and limited housing options. While this funding is unprecedented, it won't solve homelessness. But we hope it can give us the foundation for real change moving forward, particularly when it comes to shelter. So many of our homeless residents are unsheltered that the visibility of the problem can make the issue seem insurmountable. But we can make progress. The HEAP/CESH funding must be spent over the next two years. Our hope is that by the end of those two years, we will have made systemic progress on both improvements to service delivery as well as our understanding of the facilities needed to address a problem impacting not only our homeless brothers and sisters, but the entire community as well.


To celebrate some of the great work we do every day, the County recently completed its 2018 annual report. Often we will hear people compare running government to running a business. But no business would accept the challenge of managing the starting breadth of functions that governments like Santa Cruz County's perform every day without blinking. From expanding substance use treatment to early childhood development services, from handing out free bike helmets for low-income youth to afterschool and summer programs, from creating affordable housing to recycling to groundwater sustainability planning – we do it all

The people that make it all happen are you. Engineers, nurses, clerks, administrators, drivers, mechanics, analysts, lifeguards, educators, inspectors and so much more. The residents of Santa Cruz County are lucky to have you working on their behalf, and I thank you.

To view the Annual Report, click here:


Lastly, I wanted to commend our Probation Department for completion of the Probation Resource Center at 303 Water Street, which will open later in February. The Center brings together a number of agencies and community partners to improve communication and coordination of services, providing a one-stop shop for AB 109 clients and probationers. This innovative approach to service delivery took collaboration and buy-in from numerous parties, and should improve the experience for our clients by providing a welcoming and supportive environment, confidential and shared spaces, a single point of access for multiple services including basic needs such as food, clothing and hygiene supplies, and system navigation and peer support. I commend Fernando Giraldo and his team, including Andrew Davis, Sara Jamison, Alphonse Arretz, Yolanda James Sevilla, Sara Fletcher and Deb Voith. Stop by soon and check it out!

Until next time,