“It has been a pleasure.”
That was Craig Pedro’s humble and low-key parting message to the co-workers, friends and family members who gathered for a retirement reception to honor his 38 years of public service, 34 of them in Tuolumne County.
His voice wavered and he paused a couple of times as he stood in the Board of Supervisors chambers Tuesday, where so much of his work has taken place, especially in the 12 years he has been county administrator.
He recounted his oft-told story about how he came to be involved in public service. He was a senior at Sonora High School when then-Assemblyman, now U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, spoke about good government.
This was the 1970s, the effects of Watergate and the resignation of President Richard Nixon lingering. Garamendi said if you want good government you need good people. Something in that simple message stuck with the teenage Pedro, and he decided to put aside the idea of teaching to study public administration at Fresno State.
Pedro comes from a family rooted in Tuolumne County history. They came in the 1850s to mine gold and stayed. Pedro, in fact, lives on property that has been in his family for generations.
It was a certainty that he would make his way home. He spent two years with Madera County and then took a job as a management analyst in Tuolumne County.
He came into the administrator’s office, with its great fourth-floor view of downtown Sonora, after 22 years in other areas of government, and was immediately faced with a monumental task — working through the long-term financial problems of the county-owned Tuolumne General Hospital.
He became responsible for negotiating the terms for closing the hospital and brokering a deal with Sonora Community Hospital. It was an emotional undertaking, for the community and for Pedro himself, who remembers the loving care his grandparents received there as they died surrounded by family and caregivers.
Pedro managed to walk through landmines to get the deal done. Supervisor Karl Rodefer on Tuesday praised Pedro’s work on the hospital, saying he did it exactly right and if he hadn’t the county would have gone broke.
The memory is never far from his thoughts, because he has a print in his office of a boat on troubled seas that his wife gave him along with this message from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Leadership: The ultimate measure of leaders is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand in times of challenge and controversy.”
Pedro has long looked at his career as a vocation, a calling if you will, and not a job where you clock in your time and get a paycheck in return. He has truly been a servant leader. He shared the power of his office with the people who worked for him, and it was clear on Tuesday as they gathered around that they respected him and knew how this boss had made their lives better.
He reflected on the idea of public service during his brief speech on Tuesday, saying he always encourages people to take on that honorable task. As he introduced his wife, Ruth, and three grown children, he noted how each worked in public service as well.
Pedro said this was just one chapter of his life.
“It’s a natural time for me to close this chapter,” he said. “I’m a young dude. I have a lot of energy and a lot of Tuolumne County blood coursing through the veins, and I look forward to what God would tell me to do.”
We do, too, Craig Pedro. Thank you for your service.