Shasta County exoduses continue as adult services director latest to leave job

·4 min read
The Shasta County Administration Center on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021.
The Shasta County Administration Center on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021.

Director of Adult Services Paige Greene is the latest Shasta County department head to leave her job.

Since the recall of Supervisor Leonard Moty in February, which ushered in a new majority on the Board of Supervisors, three high-ranking administrators have left.

Former county Executive Officer Matt Pontes and former Health and Human Services Agency director Donnell Ewert are the other two.

Patrick Minturn, who retired as county public works director in mid-June, is acting county executive officer through January of 2023. He is making $24,338 a month in his interim role.

Matt Pontes
Matt Pontes

In May, the board’s new majority also voted 3-2 to fire Health Officer Dr. Karen Ramstrom, who had drawn the ire of many who protested mask mandates, vaccination requirements and other measures.

“Really this past year, with all of the kind of chaos and things that have transpired within our community, it really has taken its toll on our community and Health and Human Services (Agency). My program is a branch of HHS,” Greene said.

Robin Bowman, deputy director of adult services, also is leaving her job, county Public Information Officer Tim Mapes said. Bowman's last day is Tuesday.

Greene's departure comes in the wake of Ewert retiring in April, citing the political atmosphere as one of the reasons for leaving his job.

Donnell Ewert
Donnell Ewert

"I think some of the upheaval in the political environment just made the job less enjoyable," Ewert told the Record Searchlight in February when news broke of his retirement.

Pontes' decision to resign came about a month after he told the Record Searchlight he planned to stay in his job despite one county supervisor's efforts to "blackmail" him and destroy his career with information about a 28-year-old felony conviction.

The political battle between Supervisor Patrick Jones and Pontes played out in an April 19 closed-door job evaluation of Pontes. Supervisors spent two hours in closed session at the time before giving Pontes a 4-1 vote of confidence. Jones cast the lone dissenting vote.

Pontes has since taken job as director of wildfire and fuels management for Sierra Pacific Industries.

While not saying it is the only reason, Greene acknowledged the uncertainty of the county leadership changes and allegations from the board’s new majority that Greene’s department and others in Health and Human Services are bloated and inefficient helped push her out.

Emboldened by the new majority, Supervisor Les Baugh, on March 1, his first day as newly appointed board chair, asked the county to scrutinize the Health and Human Services Agency for its efficiency and a potential reorganization of the department.

“I think I am just too mature in my career to want to sit by and watch and not being able to influence any of that decision-making,” Greene said in late June.

Greene’s last day was Friday. She is taking a job as director of student services at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where she will start Aug. 1. She has family in Kentucky, and the Bluegrass State was always part of her post-Shasta County career.

But the turnover at the county and the uncertainty accelerated her decision to leave.

“I’m sad, sad for our community,” she said. “I pray for our (county) services and all the good work people do in Health and Human Services Agency and that they continue in spite of all that.”

Greene was director of adult services for two-and-a-half years and had worked for the county seven years.

Children’s Services Director Miguel Rodriguez is acting Adult Services director. He also will continue working as Children’s Services director, Mapes said.

Dr. Karen Ramstrom
Dr. Karen Ramstrom

The county still hasn’t hired a replacement for Ramstrom since supervisors voted on May 3 to terminate her.

Voting to dismiss Ramstrom was Baugh, Jones and fellow Supervisor Tim Garman. Voting against the termination were Supervisors Mary Rickert and Joe Chimenti.

Rickert has been a passionate supporter of the Health and Human Services Agency since she became a supervisor.

"I have personally seen the impacts of the people who have left and it's really difficult sometimes," Rickert said.

Ramstrom was fired without cause, so the county is paying her for the next 90 days, or into early August, Mapes said. Ramstrom is receiving $62,755 for that period.

Dr. Michael Vovakes continues to pull double duty as health officer and deputy county health officer, Mapes said.

Laura Burch was appointed acting Health and Human Services Agency director. She was appointed to a one-year term on April 11 and will make $203,496.

David Benda covers business, development and anything else that comes up for the USA TODAY Network in Redding. He also writes the weekly "Buzz on the Street" column. He’s part of a team of dedicated reporters that investigate wrongdoing, cover breaking news and tell other stories about your community. Reach him on Twitter @DavidBenda_RS or by phone at 1-530-338-8323. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Redding Record Searchlight: Shasta County exodus under anti-mandate Board of Supervisors continues