For CSAC and California Counties, Challenges Equal Opportunities
Since becoming CSAC’s new Executive Director, I have already been congratulated many times for deciding to lead this great organization. For most of my friends and colleagues, it was obvious that leading CSAC’s incredible team during this period in history when counties are facing such historic challenges and opportunities was a perfect fit for me. But for those who don’t yet know me very well, let me explain more fully why I decided to join CSAC.
First, I view my move from California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to CSAC as a natural progression. Whereas for almost five years I had an incredible opportunity to shape policy at the state level, I am now blessed with an opportunity to work on behalf of the level of government closest to the people. In fact, I will be working on many of the same challenges I have become familiar with as an Agency Secretary, especially the successful implementation of public safety realignment. And while I will miss working with my “teammates” on the Governor’s Cabinet, I will have new opportunities to work with so many local officials I have come to know and admire.
In addition, I feel that most of what I set out to accomplish at CDCR has been largely done. Our accomplishments at the CDCR over the past five years have been significant – perhaps during the most challenging period in the department’s recent history. We reduced recidivism, overhauled the juvenile justice system, improved rehabilitative programs and enhanced inmate health care – all while reducing overall prison costs. Of course, our toughest challenge was implementing a workable plan to satisfy a court-ordered mandate to reduce prison overcrowding. For the past two years I have been working closely with county officials to implement the 2011 public safety realignment. It hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t been without its naysayers, but we have put a plan in place that, with guaranteed funding and flexibility, can help break a vicious cycle of recidivism that once approached 67 percent. I am excited to see the creativity and commitment that is emanating from our counties as they tackle these new challenges head on.
Together, the state and California counties have made significant progress since AB 109 was signed into law, but our work is far from over. And public safety realignment is just one of myriad of challenges facing our counties as we move forward in this new era of government in California. We must work closely with the state to ensure any future realigned programs, such as the coming realignment associated with health care reform, are conducted in a manner that is workable and effective. We must ensure funding for county programs isn’t slashed despite an ongoing state budget dilemma. We must address the challenges and threats that originate in Washington, D.C. We must be prepared to not only react, but to lead.
I look at our present challenges as critical to future of all Californians. We face issues in public safety, health care, natural resources and government operations that will define county service delivery for years to come. But I also view these challenges as not a threat, but as an opportunity – an opportunity to reshape service delivery in a manner more fitting for 2013 than 1983. As someone passionate about leadership and meaningful public service, I am wholeheartedly convinced that it is a great time to be the Executive Director of the California State Association of Counties.
California counties are facing a great opportunity. We are fortunate to have a Governor and legislative leadership who understand that given the proper flexibility, discretion and guaranteed funding, counties can provide services more efficiently and effectively than the state. CSAC has built a strong partnership with this Administration and working together, we can take that partnership to the next level. Working together, we can help shape this new era of government.
And so I eagerly begin this new journey, and I look forward to working with you as we move forward. I am excited about the future challenges and what we can accomplish together.
Matt Cate is the Executive Director of the California State Association of Counties.
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