El Dorado County Chief Administrative Officer Gayle Erbe-Hamlin informed the Board of Supervisors late Monday night that she will retire Monday, Dec. 6.
Having presided over perhaps the most difficult financial time in recent county history, Erbe-Hamlin told Mother Lode News Tuesday morning her decision was not related to the county’s fiscal trauma or any other negative aspects of her job.
“It was my moment,” she said. “And the board was really comfortable with the decision. It’s been an incredible growing experience for me, but this is the right time to leave. I feel like the board got to the right place (regarding the drastic cuts to the budget) and they’ll be ready for the next round in the spring.”
Erbe-Hamlin and her staff have spent much of the past year digging into the county’s finances looking for ways to cut $11 million out of next year’s budget. That figure is based on bleak projections of lost revenue in fiscal year 2011-12.
Monday, the board voted to lop $4 million out of the upcoming budget. Erbe-Hamlin had recommended a $5.5 million reduction by Jan. 1 and the additional $5.5 million by June 30 next year. Although supervisors had discussed taking another $1.5 million from the law and justice departments, including the Sheriff’s Department, by the end of the evening they had decided to postpone that decision until spring.
Erbe-Hamlin said she was optimistic the cuts made this week would help make the future cuts of any amount from $3 million to $5 million achievable next year.
“I feel like I helped the county get into good shape, much better than many other counties,” she said. “It’s been a great ride, and now I feel like I’m just changing jobs after 26 years with the county.”
Erbe-Hamlin was director of the county Public Health Department for many years before becoming CAO.
Reached for comment, Supervisor Ron Briggs praised Erbe-Hamlin’s 30-month tenure as top appointed county official.
“Her retiring was a surprise during a closed session at about 8 or 8:30 last night,” he said. “It was surprising but not unexpected, because when she was appointed she said she’d give it about two or three years. I think she achieved all her goals, and she built continuity and a good team. Her work has been spectacular, and she has left the county in a good place.”
John Knight took office about six months after Erbe-Hamlin was appointed CAO. He credits her with having done “a very good job in very difficult times. She’s been tough when she needed to be, and she’s had an upfront and ‘on-the-table’ manner with us, and she’s gotten a lot done,” Knight said.
Like Briggs, Knight said he was a “little surprised” but he had heard “some rumblings in the rumor mill” regarding her possible retirement.
He further noted that supervisors have several options with respect to replacing Erbe-Hamlin. Assistant CAO Terri Daly has been on duty for only a few months, but Knight said he had some interaction with her when she was an administrator with Amador County.
“She came highly regarded and highly respected,” he recalled. “We can appoint her as interim CAO, or keep her in the assistant CAO position or appoint her outright to be the CAO.”
The latter would “send a clear message” of trust and confidence, he said.
Erbe-Hamlin said she did not inform her staff in advance of her decision and it came as a surprise to them as well. “I didn’t even tell my husband,” she said.
She and her husband operate a large bed and breakfast inn near Coloma.
Supervisors will next meet Dec. 6.