Tuolumne County’s part-time veterans services officer will step down at the end of the month to take a full-time job elsewhere.

Mark Orlando announced he will resign effective March 28. He has accepted an offer to become the full-time veterans services officer for Sonoma County, according to Steve Boyack, assistant director of the county Human Services Agency.

“Essentially, he’ll be doing what he’s doing here in a much larger county with a larger staff,” Boyack said, adding that the split was amicable. “He’s an outstanding veterans services officer … His heart is to serve.”

Orlando was hired last May to manage the county’s Veterans Services Office and oversee its staff, which consists of two full-time employees who help veterans seek benefit eligibility.

Federal regulations require county veterans services offices to be staffed by a paid employee who must work no less than 1,000 hours each year.

In addition to approving a recruitment plan for replacing Orlando, the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously voted to add a part-time office assistant to the agency’s staff.

The board approved not filling the vacant office assistant position and increasing Orlando’s hours from 20 to 25 per week as part of mid-year budget adjustments in February.

Boyack said county staff recommended re-opening the office assistant position and reducing the veterans services officer position back down to 20 hours per week to ensure at least one of them is at the office while its open.

“Having front office support is critical to our operation,” he said. “Ideally, you have the VSO there half of the time and the office assistant half of the time.”

The combined cost to the county for filling both positions would be an estimated $64,711 per year.

With regard to recruiting a veterans services officer, the board approved a plan that includes a screening process with a panel comprised of representatives from local veterans organizations.

Boyack referred to the tentative timeline for filling the position by late-June as “ambitious to say the least.”

The hourly rate for the position is between $31.89 and $38.93.

During his brief tenure, Orlando made a good impression on District 5 Supervisor Karl Rodefer, a veteran himself who serves as chairman of the county’s Veterans Committee.

“He was very outgoing, did a lot of public outreach, and worked hard for the vets,” Rodefer said of Orlando’s performance on the job. “I wished we could have figured out a way to give him a full-time slot so we could keep him.”

Turning the veterans services officer into a full-time position would cost the county an estimated $120,000 per year.

One notable project accomplished by Orlando was an off-duty, volunteer effort involving his family and other members of the office’s staff to fix-up a used fifth-wheel trailer for a Vietnam veteran in Tuolumne after the one he was living in burned down on Dec. 6 last year.

Orlando could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. He did not attend the meeting because he’s on vacation, according to Boyack.

The number of veterans living in the county is about 5,059, representing a little over 11 percent of the total population age 18 and older, according the latest estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

About 40 percent of all veterans in the county served during the Vietnam War era, the statistics show.

Boyack said 2,037 veterans visited the county veterans services office during the 2016-17 fiscal year. About 400 of those live in other counties.

Boyack said the number of veterans who travel from elsewhere is a testament to the quality of service provided by the local office.

“Our office is regionally well known for providing a high level of customer service to veterans, and that gets out to other jurisdictions,” he said.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.