El Dorado County government getting back to normal

Chris Daley
Mountain Democrat

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — El Dorado County government will “open” once again for business on Tuesday, June 22. After more than a year supervisors will convene their first public, in-person board meeting beginning at 9 a.m.

The Mountain Democrat asked each supervisor, Chief Administrative Officer Don Ashton and Clerk of the Board Kim Dawson to comment on some of the challenges they and their staffs have faced over the past year.

Although District 2 Supervisor George Turnboo and District 3 Supervisor Wendy Thomas only began their official terms of office in January of this year, both have had some negative and some positive experiences on the job.

“It will be really good to get back to normal,” Turnboo said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I’ve been positive and diligent reaching out to constituents. I’m a hands-on guy and I really enjoy helping people.”

He said he looks forward to meeting with people face to face and he expects a good public turnout at Tuesday’s meeting.

Turnboo said he has met with Congressman Tom McClintock a couple times, including once at his District 2 office. “I think it’s the first time Tom has been to a supervisor’s office,” he added proudly.

They are working together on forest management issues, revitalizing a robust logging industry and exploring the possibility of opening a co-generation plant in the county.

Thomas wrote, “One of the more significant impacts has been the lack of ability to connect. People haven’t been in the office and we haven’t gathered with staff around a conference table to rumble with issues. Our (complete) board has never been together in a board meeting.”

While the disconnection has impacted constituent services, “I think our staff has done an amazing job of working around those kinds of limitations,” she said.

Thomas described one bit of “silver lining” resulting from the isolation and disruption. “I can’t tell you how much more efficient we are with our time.”

Able to attend her 15 regional board and commission meetings via Zoom has significantly reduced the time and expense of travel to far-flung parts of the region and state.

“It has saved taxpayer dollars and I have no doubt that as we emerge from these onerous restrictions, we’ll be able ‘to keep the best and leave the rest’ using Zoom when it makes sense and making the most of in-person meetings to connect with each other at a deeper level,” she explained. “Let’s not ever take that for granted again.”

Describing herself and others as “Zoom warriors,” Thomas decried being “insulated in our personal bubbles and fueled by siloed rhetoric … The (broader) disconnection of this past year has destroyed dialog, reason and compromise, which are critical to working through community issues.”

That said, Thomas added, “I am proud that in El Dorado County we were able to find the sweet spot … between ensuring the public good (while) … protecting our individual liberties, freedoms and opportunities.”

She said she is “very much looking forward to Tuesday and future meetings in-person.”

As currently scheduled, the public comment section of Tuesday’s meeting will begin at 3 p.m. following a memorial for county Surveyor Phil Mosbacher who passed away June 10. Public Information Officer Carla Hass further noted that after Tuesday, public comment will revert back to a 1 p.m. start.

Board Clerk Dawson wrote in an email, “We are ready to open to the public. (Our office) did not have any significant impacts (this year) and I do not foresee any (as we get back to normal).”

District 1 Supervisor John Hidahl, who is also chair of the board, told the Mountain Democrat in an email Thursday, “For many staff working from home, poor internet service, kids at home with only remote learning or home schooling, combined with ever-changing work demands has taken a toll. For the BOS, COVID workplace constraints imposed by the state (mask wearing and vaccine distribution shortages) and seemingly endless strings of Zoom meetings have been challenging to keep up with.

“The only positive impacts have been derived from the federal and state funding (i.e. project roomkey),” he said.

“I look forward to the lifting of all mask wearing requirements, all of our local schools being back to normal when they re-open in the fall, our surviving small businesses prospering again and all BOS interaction with the public getting back to normal.”

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