A majority of the holders of Calaveras County’s highest elected office and its top staff administrator were sent off with a fond farewell Tuesday at the outset of the final Board of Supervisors meeting of 2012.
Supervisors Tom Tryon and Gary Tofanelli lost bids for re-election last month and Supervisor Steve Wilensky as well as County Administrative Officer Jeanne Boyce are retiring this month.
Tryon’s 28-year tenure ensured an entire generation of Angels Camp-area residents have known no other representative on the county’s legislative body.
“There’s a certain degree of sadness in leaving, although it’s overwhelmed by the sense of joy,” Tryon said. “Twenty-eight years is a long time ... I’ve been bruised and I’m wounded enough that it’s time to go.”
Wilensky noted that Tryon is “near as I can tell the longest-serving Libertarian official in the United States of America.”
Despite divergent ideologies, Tryon and Supervisor Merita Callaway, who has represented Ebbetts Pass for 19 of the past 28 years, developed a mutual respect and a collegial banter in many meetings.
“(Tryon) knows what he’s talking about. After 28 years …” Tofanelli began, in recognizing his colleague’s tenure.
“He’s finally learned,” Callaway interjected.
“After 19 years of mentoring from Merita,” Tryon added.
Wilensky became emotional after the audience applauded his service.
“To have the honor and opportunity to serve is a pretty sacred thing,” he said. “The people of District 2 have given me more than I ever could have hoped for.”
He said he drew on earlier job experiences, including time in a garment factory and a sugar mill as well as labor union negotiator and community organizer, to be as effective as he could while on the board.
“It made a difference in perspective ... in how I work in the world,” Wilensky said.
Callaway praised his eloquence in advocating his positions.
“Steve has a silver tongue … he has a wonderful way with the English language,” she said. “That doesn’t mean we like his votes but he has a way of putting things ... that people can respect.”
Tofanelli said he will have more time to devote to his steel fabrication business in Stockton and expects to remain highly active in the community as a member of the Valley Springs Area Business Association, Friends of the Valley Springs Library and other nonprofit organizations.
Supervisor Darren Spellman, whose district splits the Valley Springs area with Tofanelli’s, lauded his efforts “for making sure the obstacles around Cosgrove Creek (flood control) got dealt with … since Gary was able to talk some sense into the feds and other people to make that happen, now the Cal Fire crew comes in to clean that every year.”
“My constituents benefit from things you do as well,” he added, and praised Tofanelli’s integrity.
“I came with no expectations. I leave with no regrets. I appreciate all the hard work this board I was part of has done the last four years. It’s been very, very difficult,” Tofanelli said. “We’ve had times these past four years that this nation hasn’t experienced in decades … (the board has) done what it need to do to keep this county fiscally solvent. In my mind, that’s what it needed to do in this fiscally difficult time. “
He added some words of caution for supervisors-elect Cliff Edson, his November opponent, as well as Debbie Ponte and Chris Wright, Tryon and Wilensky’s respective successors.
“You’ll find that it’s not what you think it is sitting on that side (of the dias). You can’t do things that you want to do sometimes,” he said. “You get criticized … for making decisions that are very difficult.”
Boyce leaves after 20 years working for the county, leading the Health Services Agency before spending the last three years as CAO.
“We’ve had a lot of challenges over the years but it’s been my pleasure that in Calaveras, we come to the table, roll up our sleeves and figure out how to make things a little bit better for the community,” she said.
Tryon said she is one of the best leaders he has seen in county government.
“In my opinion, we have had two CAOs in this county that rise to the level of excellent CAOs and that’s Brent Harrington and Jeanne Boyce,” he said. “Filling the gap will be a huge, huge challenge.”
County Human Resources Director Francine Osborn said Tuesday that recruitment for Boyce’s replacement will likely take three to six months. Boyce said her last day at the office will be on Thursday.