Though the last three years of belt-tightening and cost-cutting have been tough, Kern County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop has pursued an outlook of optimism, and he has tried to get his staff to do the same.
“We are not dwelling on the past, we are looking forward,” he said. “The path ahead is better and brighter than the path behind, that’s our mantra.”
For Alsop, the path ahead just got a little bit longer.
The Board of Supervisors recently extended his contract by three years, through 2023 (previously it was to end in 2020). It was his first extension granted by the board and signifies the supervisors have confidence in their new CAO, and believe he can fulfill the policies and goals they set forth.
“I love this community,” said Alsop, who requested not to receive a raise with is contract extension because county employees have gone without a cost-of-living increase for many years. Alsop earned a salary of $191,557 in 2017 according to Transparent California.
"It’s been a pleasure to serve (the supervisors) and the community. It’s a place I call home and I’ve got the opportunity to help improve it.”
Alsop became the county’s administrative officer in 2017, about the same time the county was forced to deal with a $44 million budget deficit that resulted from a precipitous drop in oil prices.
As soon as he took his new position the county departments needed to find savings anywhere they could. That meant not filling some positions and becoming more efficient in day-to-day operations.
The county implemented a strategy known as Lean Six Sigma that is designed to eliminate wasteful business practices.
So far, the county estimates it has saved about $7 million through Lean Six Sigma practices. A total of 739 employees have been trained in the strategy.
“We hope, long-term, it’s going to have huge results for the county in freeing up more money and more staff time. And overall making the experience of dealing with the county a much more pleasant and streamlined experience,” Alsop said.
So far, Alsop said the county has cut into the deficit by 60 percent, with $17 million more in reductions needed before the deficit is totally gone.
The county plans to finish their deficit reduction process by the end of Fiscal Year 2019-20.
Alsop said maintaining the service levels to the public has been not only his, but all county staff’s greatest accomplishment during the last two years of budget reductions.
“The credit is not mine, but it’s a credit to all the employees we have,” he said. “Our employees show up every day and put their game face on.”
Alsop was born and raised in Bakersfield, but he came to work professionally in Kern County after being the assistant chief executive officer of Los Angeles County, the largest county in the United States by nearly 5 million people, according to the 2010 census.
“Lots of money rolling in,” he said of LA County. “Lots of ability to do things because you had stable, growing revenue sources. It’s a little bit different than here. Here, it’s a different place. We don’t have diversification of our economy like they do.”
Supervisor Mike Maggard said that Alsop's experience outside Kern County, as well as his origins growing up locally, had served him well as CAO.
"I thought he was the perfect combination of somebody with a tie to our community, as well as the perspective that somebody outside of our community would have," Maggard said. "And he’s proven to do just that."
But a key difference between LA County and Kern County is the type of business conducted in each location.
Alsop said he hopes to bring more economic diversification to the county to bolster what he said were stagnant revenue streams.
The Amazon warehouse that is currently being built near Meadows Field Airport will supply at least 1,000 jobs to Kern County residents, and will help move the county beyond its economic base of agriculture and oil.
Alsop said he the county is talking with interested businesses about ventures in Kern County, and would pursue all interested companies, but he couldn’t announce anything just yet.