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Ventura County picks CEO

Marty Robinson will become the first woman to hold the top post.

December 20, 2007|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

Ventura County supervisors Wednesday appointed Marty Robinson, 57, as the county's next chief executive officer, the first woman to hold the county's top post.

Robinson officially will take the reins of the $1.6-billion government next spring, when outgoing county chief Johnny Johnston retires. Until then, the two will work together to ensure a smooth transition, Robinson said.

"I'm elated," Robinson said shortly after the board's unanimous vote. "I'm so appreciative of their faith in me. My career here has always been exciting, adventurous and changing. And this is another big change."

A native of Wilmington, Robinson has held a variety of positions in Ventura County government over the last 34 years. She said she believed her experience as a department director, a budget analyst and a front-line social worker has prepared her to look at the government's sprawling functions as a whole.

For a brief stint in the 1970s, she negotiated contracts for Service Employees International Union Local 535, which represents social workers, clerks and probation officers in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Robinson beat out about half a dozen other internal candidates to become chief executive. Her personal skills and administrative knowledge helped propel her to the top, the supervisors said.

She also worked closely with Johnston during his six-year tenure as chief, helping him develop budgets and get department managers through several lean fiscal years.

Ventura County has rebounded from the budget shortfalls of 2001. But with the state facing a projected $14-billion gap in next year's budget, new fiscal challenges are likely ahead, said Supervisor Steve Bennett.

"We needed someone who could maintain fiscal stability and trust in the CEO's office," Bennett said. "There was a real sense she could hold a team of people together to build this organization and take it to the next level."

As for Robinson's stature as the first woman to lead the 134-year old county, Bennett said it was an exciting historical footnote.

But it did not play a role in the board's decision to choose Robinson, Bennett said.

"Our focus was to get the best person possible," he said.

Johnston earns $250,000 a year. Robinson's contract, including her salary, will be finalized in January.

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