In a shake-up at the top of Sonoma County government, the Board of Supervisors Monday appointed an Orange County official to Sonoma County's vacant chief financial officer post.
David Sundstrom, 59, the current elected auditor-controller of Orange County is set to begin work as Sonoma County's auditor-controller-treasurer- tax collector Feb. 1.
His leadership role in setting government accounting standards and experience with public employee pension reform and computerized financial management at a large urban county were reasons for his selection, several supervisors said.
"It's a new challenge, a new day," Sundstrom said after the unanimous board vote.
At county headquarters, the vote was seen as a clear move away from the three-decades-long-tenure of Rod Dole, the former auditor-controller-treasurer-tax collector.
Dole, who retired in May and now receives the largest county pension at $254,625, recommended Donna Dunk, the assistant auditor-controller and a 26-year county veteran, to be his successor.
But Dole sat in the audience and watched as the board went against that advice Monday. Other onlookers included nearly a dozen employees of Dole's former office as well as Tom Ford, the former treasurer-tax collector, one of only two speakers from the audience Monday. The other was Liz Yager, the county's energy and sustainability manager. Both Ford and Yager voiced support for Dunk's selection.
A third finalist interviewed for the job in the special public meeting of the Board of Supervisors on Monday morning was Terri Velasquez, a former chief financial officer for the City of Colorado Springs, Colo.
The interviews and selection were conducted in an open public session because the appointment concerns an elected post with a term to run through the end of 2014. The job has an annual salary of $208,644.
Of the three candidates, the board favored Sundstrom and Dunk, who has served as interim auditor-controller since Dole's departure. The board's final decision came down to a preference for what several supervisors called "strong leadership" and "a new perspective" in the county's top financial post.
"Now more than ever, significant and true leadership is necessary," board Chairman Efren Carrillo said.
Several supervisors praised Dunk's county service, including seven years as the assistant auditor-controller.
But Supervisors David Rabbitt and Mike McGuire voiced early support for Sundstrom, who previously was university auditor for the California State University system and now serves on the board that sets accounting standards for local and state governments nationwide.
Rabbitt said the choice boiled down to Dunk's familiarity with the county "versus making that next leap" with a new leader.
Supervisor Valerie Brown supported Dunk's selection but ultimately joined the other four board members in voting for Sundstrom.
Brown voiced concerns about several contentious moves by Orange County to reduce retiree pension and health care benefits without employees' consent.
"You've pushed the envelope in terms of (retiree medical benefits) and retirement," Brown said of Orange County's overhauls, which retirees have challenged with some success in court. "But it's been at a huge cost to workers, and that's a problem for me."
In an interview after his appointment, Sundstrom distanced himself from Orange County's approach to overhauling benefits.<NO1><NO>
As a public leader, he said he favored working with labor on pay and benefit changes.
"When you pull unilateral moves, you polarize the two sides," he said. "I'm hoping that any concerns she (Brown) has about any rough edges concerning my tenure in Orange County will be dissipated over time."