When I took over as Chairman of the Board of Supervisors in 2013, I wanted to address four broad areas that I believed would help improve life in Tulare County. Those areas included: Health & Wellness, Public Safety, Investing in Youth and Building Communities. Although I cannot say that all challenges were completely addressed over the last year, I do feel that efforts were undertaken that pointed Tulare County in the right direction.
Regarding Health and Wellness; I think Tulare County Government made great strides amongst our own workforce and also in the general public. The first ever Healthy Tulare County Week was held, with each day of the week being dedicated to improving health and well-being in the county through a specific subject area. Additionally, through the dedication and hard work of the Human Resources Department and Rhonda Sjostrom, Tulare County also adopted our first ever comprehensive Health and Wellness Program, which will certainly result in positive health improvements for Tulare County Employees. Tulare County also assisted in bringing awareness to many critical health issues that challenge our community; Mental Health Awareness, Suicide Prevention, and Drug and Alcohol Awareness through Red Ribbon Week, just to name a few.
2013 was also a strong year for Public Safety. The Board, in collaboration with the Sheriff’s Department, Resource Management Agency and County Counsel, began crafting a detailed marijuana policy in hopes of further enhancing safety within the communities of Tulare County. Also, the Community Based Officer Program was continued in several unincorporated communities in the county, despite the termination of the grant that initially funded the program. Thanks to the work of Dennis Lehman and the Code Enforcement Division and the assistance of county partners in Animal Control, Health and Human Services, and the Sheriff’s Department, a Nuisance Property Abatement Program was established and is on its way to cleaning up the county and hopefully becoming a self-sustaining program with lasting impacts. Tulare County also secured an additional $40 million grant to construct new correctional facilities in the north part of the county.
Tulare County also continued to make significant investments in our Youth through the Step Up Program, summer work programs for youth, and recognition of outstanding achievements by our young residents.
We also continued to strengthen Tulare County by building communities. There were many ways that we were able to work towards this, but one of the most tangible in 2013, was the work done by the Tulare County Flood Commission and Resource Management Agency Staff. The three initial projects that are being designed and or constructed are the Juvenile Detention Facility near Cottonwood Creek project, the Seville-Sontag Ditch project, and the Yettem-Button Ditch project. These projects will have a long term impact in the county.
2013 was also a year of improved accessibility of the Board of Supervisors to Tulare County residents. Five meetings were held in each Supervisorial District, occurred in the evenings, and were very well received. In addition, the Board also hosted the first ever joint meeting between the county and the Tule River Tribal Council in an effort to break down barriers and improve communication with the sovereign nation.
Financially, 2013 was a solid year for Tulare County. While many of our fellow counties and cities throughout the state utilized reserves to make their budgets, we were able to increase our reserves and pay down debt at the same time. We were also able to improve compensation to some of the employee groups that were furthest away from comparable pay in other jurisdictions.
In conclusion, I think that 2013 was a great year for Tulare County and its residents. I want to thank my colleagues, county administration and all county departments and employees for their tireless and outstanding work to improve life in our county.