The Great Resignation may have slowed nationwide, but it continues unabated in Plumas County.
Two department heads submitted their resignations Sept. 19. They followed one departure on Sept. 12, two in July and one in June.
The recent departures are part of a pattern—19 of 26 department heads left their positions between 2020 and 2022—that reflects a weariness stemming from a community in trauma, said County Administrative Officer Debra Lucero.
Since 2020, when Plumas County was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has endured the 2021 Dixie fire, which burned from July 13 until Oct. 14, and a Nov. 2021 cyberattack. The result is a loss of leadership and discontent among employees, she said.
“I know our department heads and staff are tired. I know that they sometimes feel unappreciated… We want to change this and have an opportunity to do things more efficiently, which is where we’re going,” Lucero told The Plumas Sun.
The most recent resignations came Sept. 19 from JD Moore, director of Facility Services, and Charles White, Building Department director. The supervisors accepted them both with reluctance.
Librarian Lindsay Fuchs submitted her resignation Sept. 12 citing family obligations. “This is a very regrettable agenda item,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Greg Hagwood. In reluctantly accepting her resignation, the supervisors expressed hope that her circumstances might allow Fuchs to return.
In July, County Counsel Gretchen Stuhr left her position with Plumas County to take a job in Shasta County. Board Clerk Heidi White resigned weeks earlier. She gave the supervisors no reason for her departure but told Plumas News “it’s not due to money.”
A month earlier Public Health Director Dana Loomis retired. Hired at the beginning of the Covid-19 emergency, he said the county is moving into the post emergency period. “It’s time for new leadership,” Loomis told the Board.
Every case is different, said Hagwood. Some of the department heads who left county service retired, some left for family reasons, some for a higher paid position with less responsibility. One died, he said. Asked if there is any apparent pattern among the resignations, Hagwood said, “Some may be internal conflict within the county. There are as many reasons as there are departures.”
Most department heads are not specific about their reasons for resigning in their letters to the Board. Several have privately mentioned being unhappy with their wage, disgruntled with Lucero or with a particular supervisor.
Wages are an issue, Lucero said: “The Board is acutely aware of this… and recognizes wages need to be increased.” The supervisors have tasked her with digging into the county’s finances to see what is affordable, she said.
2022 cost-of-living raise first in 15 years
Hagwood himself may have started the resignation trend. In December 2019 he retired after 31 years with the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office. During the last 12 years he served as sheriff, an elected position. Pay was part of his motivation for retiring, he told The Plumas Sun.
“It was clear the county would never offer any cost-of-living increases to elected officials. I saw an opportunity to change things as a county supervisor,” Hagwood said.
“It was clear the county would never offer any cost-of-living increases to elected officials. I saw an opportunity to change things as a county supervisor.”Greg Hagwood, Plumas County Board of Supervisors Chairman
Two years after he was elected supervisor to represent District 4, all elected officials got a 10 percent cost of living increase. The supervisors’ unanimous Feb. 2022 decision tied future increases to the board’s own annual cost of living increases.
It was the first pay increase in 15 years for the county assessor, auditor, clerk-recorder, district attorney, treasurer-tax collector and sheriff as well as the supervisors.
Still, a shadow of discontent hangs over the county workforce that continues to color public perception of county functions. Weekly comments to the Plumas County Board of Supervisors reflect angst over a county that seems to be divided and divisive.
Daniel Kearns, of Taylorsville, spoke specifically about the dearth of employees in the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office but more generally about discontent over what he called the county’s “state of emergency.”
“I am deeply concerned, and it is frustrating to have these conversations continue and continue and continue,” Kearns told the supervisors Sept. 12.
In her comments the same day, Susan Henderson, of Quincy, called for a halt to the complaints to the supervisors and public support of all county officials.
“We need to pull together, not just attack the Board of Supervisors. We are stronger than this. We are better than this,” she said.
Lucero cited the difficulties imposed on the county by “outside forces.” Covid has changed the way America looks at work, she said. The Dixie fire temporarily made every county employee an emergency worker, she added.
“We are still a county in trauma,” Lucero said.
“We are still a county in trauma.”Debra Lucero, Plumas County Administrative Officer
To emerge from it, we have to think more creatively – “make our jobs more appealing and more flexible” to attract new and young people, she said.
Most importantly, Plumas County needs to work as a team. And that, said Lucero includes everyone: the school system, public safety officers, government workers, hospitals.
“We’re all in this together, and the cavalry is not coming. It’s us. We have got to make it work,” Lucero said.