Four years ago John Knight predicted he would soon replace his 1984 Mercedes-Benz.
Fortunately for the out-going District 1 El Dorado County supervisor, he found a way to address his wife Georgi’s complaints (she had to sit on a pillow in the driver’s seat) without giving up his beloved car. Georgi got her own Mercedes, a 1986 560SL, earlier this year.
Knight and administrative assistant Loretta Featherston’s approach to serving their constituents these last four years could be summed up in those two words. They found that problem solving was the most rewarding part of the job and, Knight said, the most frustrating when people came in with problems but offered no solutions.
Called “a great collaborator” by District 3 Supervisor Jack Sweeney, whose term also ended this year, Knight said he’d much rather work with people than on his own. During his term, Knight collaborated with local, state and federal officials to get issues resolved — he was instrumental in getting racist headstones replaced at Mormon Island Relocation Cemetery — and get projects started in El Dorado County — Highway 50 HOV lanes, Silva Valley interchange, purchasing property for the new animal shelter, etc.
“John makes himself the most available person I’ve met,” Featherston said of her soon-to-be-former boss. “He would postpone a vacation to meet with someone.”
“Of course, that could also be a sign of sickness,” Knight joked, recalling all the times he said “Georgi’s going to kill me” when he had to postpone a family event to finish county business.
“There’s a lot more I would have liked to accomplish in District 1 but there was just not enough time,” Knight said.
“You just can’t live that long,” he joked. “(Government’s) just so slow-moving.”
Knight rattled off his wish list — connecting Saratoga Way to Iron Point Road in Folsom, “but that’s too expensive,” starting construction on the county’s new courthouse across from Placerville’s government center (held up by the state), completing the animal shelter, building a senior daycare program in El Dorado Hills.
Despite this unfinished business, Knight said he’s proud of what he has achieved — notably the board lowered traffic impact mitigation fees to lessen the burden on development that could add jobs and revenue to the county’s economy. He also noted that the county refocused its budget without major program cuts or layoffs.
And he couldn’t have done his job without Featherston. Sitting in his partially packed-up office last week, Knight looked at Featherston and said, “Nobody can do this job without a quality assistant. There are too many phone calls, too many e-mails.”
He estimated that Featherston handled about 98 percent of constituents communications, bringing him the most important matters that required his attention. Featherston, who also served as administrative assistant to District 1 Supervisor Rusty Dupray, was also instrumental in settling Knight into his new role four years ago. He’d previously served on the El Dorado Hills Fire Board and the El Dorado County Planning Commission prior to being elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2008.
Knight remembers visiting the departments with Featherston, a 28-year county employee who started in the Surveyor’s Office, and everywhere they went people knew her and asked how she was doing, paying less attention to Knight.
Featherston chuckled at the memory and said, by far, the people she has met over the years made the job most enjoyable. “I’ve made friends with not only county employees but also constituents, developers and people who stumbled into the Surveyor’s office,” she said.
Sharing a message with her replacement — Supervisor-elect Ron Mikulaco has named Michelle Elliston as his administrative assistant — Featherston said, “She will find everybody receptive to helping her. There are no walls here.”
When he started Knight said he learned, “You have to keep an open mind on everything that comes across your desk.” His advice for Mikulaco: listen.
With a lot of free time just around the corner, Knight and Featherston have already started making plans — hers a little more concrete than his. Featherston recently completed the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Citizens Academy and plans to volunteer with the department. She’ll also spend more time with husband Steve, a fellow El Dorado County alum.
Knight, of course, also plans to spend more time with his better half but beyond that, he said, “I don’t know.”
Dipping a toe back into the real estate business is a possibility, he added, but other opportunities might also emerge.
And as for that Mercedes … Knight promises to give it up “when it dies.”