The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has acted to remain within its comfort zone for the time being and elevated Dena M. Smith, the county’s chief operating officer, to serve as interim chief executive officer beginning on April 1.
She will take on the duties now carried out by county CEO Greg Devereaux, who last week announced he would depart from county’s highest staff position this year.
“The board has the utmost confidence in Dena’s ability to carry out board policy and lead the county organization as we conduct our due diligence to ensure we make the best choice for our next CEO,” said board of supervisors chairman Robert Lovingood. “The board has directed county human resources to hire a recruitment firm and open the recruitment to internal and external candidates.”
Smith will be among those applying for the permanent CEO’s post, the Sentinel has learned.
One individual highly knowledgeable about county operations said the board feels “insulated” by the presence of Smith, meaning she has enough general and specific mastery of the issues facing the county on a daily basis to be able to intervene with regard to problems and prevent them from expanding to the point that they represent a threat,
political or otherwise, to the individual board members.
Ms. Smith has been with the county since 1999, first as chief learning officer, then as clerk of the board and director of land use services. She became deputy executive officer in 2011 and chief operating officer last year. Smith has overseen for Devereaux operational and administrative issues. She assists in the implementation of policies and directives from the board of supervisors and oversees the government relations, legislative affairs, public information and special projects units of the county administrative office.
Devereaux was given broad and deep authority when he was hired in 2010. That authority included a so-called superbonus, the terms of which specified that he could not be terminated on a simple majority vote of the board. Rather, no fewer than four votes were needed to fire him. He was also given authority to fire all county department heads at his sole discretion without having to justify his action to the board.
Board vice chairman Curt Hagman told the Sentinel that Devereaux’s successor will not be provided with a superbonus and will not have the same autonomy he possessed with regard to the employment status of department heads.