Alison Lehman has been on the job as county CEO for a little over a month now, and she is already getting plenty of advice on how to do the job.
A chunk of it came recently from Terry McAteer, former county superintendent of schools and now a member of The Union’s editorial board. Writing in the paper, he urged Lehman to become a bold leader.
The county “has just been ‘bobbing along'” since the recession, in need of a “grand vision from (Lehman) which outlines where we as a community are headed. We are currently in a leadership void,” he wrote.
McAteer’s advice to Lehman: “We want you to lead! We want you to be bold!”
If she takes McAteer’s advice, Lehman will probably be unemployed.
We have been “bobbing along” for the last decade because the 800-pound gorilla in the corner–that would be the county Board of Supervisors–doesn’t seem to feel a sense of urgency when it comes to solving the county’s core problems.
Lehman’s predecessor, Rick Haffey, got the job after his predecessor got caught in the NH2020 controversy and couldn’t survive a shift of the board from a 4-1 liberal majority to a 3-2 conservative majority.
Haffey learned from that experience, and managed to last 15 years in the job by, as he put it, “flying under the radar,” expressing his opinions in private and letting the supervisors take the lead.
In an exit interview with The Union, Haffey recalled how he spoke with at least one member of the board every day. “On occasion, I’d talk to all five multiple times,” he said. “They come in and express their opinions on a wide variety of subjects.”
You can bet they just weren’t bouncing ideas off Haffey. Many of those calls involved complaints from constituents or pet peeves of the supes that required action from various county departments.
And we know of at least a couple of instances when the supes took direct action. Ed Scofield short circuited the process when the county planning department was dealing with the proposal to build a Dollar General store in Alta Sierra, and Dan Miller got the ball moving on a proposal that had been laying around a year to grant special concessions to River Valley Community Bank.
Then there were the times Haffey fell on his sword, writing letters to The Union when the supes were feeling the heat from critics. And who can forget the art display controversy at the Rood Center, when well-known art critic Supervisor Sue Horne said some–shall we say–family unfriendly items were on display. Haffey took the blame for that.
Lehman worked for Haffey for several years and knows all this. She also knows that if she wants to keep her job, it’s best to let her bosses take the lead and do what she’s told.