Tuolumne County Chief Innovation Officer Resigns for State Position | News

Tuolumne County’s director of innovation and business assistance, an internal position created in 2019 after its former economic development agency dissolved amid a scandal, is stepping down after less than three years to take on a new role in the state.

Cole Przybyla, who was hired by the county board of supervisors in July 2019, confirmed in a written statement on Friday that he would leave his current position in mid-April to serve as a broadband infrastructure adviser in the technology department. from California.

“I cannot say enough about the resilience of our community businesses, the positive outlook I have for our region and the accomplishments I have led,” he said. “I chose to leave for the opportunity to lead statewide efforts with the rollout of broadband, and I look forward to staying in Tuolumne County.”

Przybyla did not respond Friday to an interview request made within minutes of its publication, or to a message left by phone earlier in the day. His last day at county is April 15.

County Administrator Tracie Riggs said she received Przybyla’s written resignation on March 18, although she could not share the letter as she said it was a personal file. not a public document.

Riggs said she had spoken with Przybyla a week or two before submitting his resignation, at which point he informed her that he had applied for a position in the state because he was “excited about the opportunity to make a difference at the state level”.

“He’s very excited and thinks this will be a great opportunity aligned with his skill set,” she said.

Przybyla was 29 when he was hired for the county job with a starting salary of $101,369 a year, in addition to benefits outlined in the county’s confidential executive compensation plan which includes health and welfare contributions. retirement, the county’s human resources department confirmed Monday.

County employees in confidential executive pay, such as department heads and other senior officials, agreed to a temporary reduction during the COVID-19 pandemic in June 2020 that reduced Przybyla’s salary to 95 $480, the department said.

A partial restoration of employee pay under the Confidential Executive Compensation Plan brought Przybyla’s annual earnings down to $97,404, before he received a routine raise to $102,385 in September 2020.

Compensation plan salaries were fully reinstated in April last year, bringing Przybyla’s to $106,553. The board then approved giving it an additional boost to $112,002 in May of last year.

Przybyla then received a normal pay raise, which comes after a full year of working at least 40 hours a week, in July 2021, which brought his salary up to $117,730.

Przybyla’s current salary is $121,307, nearly 20% higher than what he started less than three years ago, following a cost-of-living adjustment in November that affected employees of confidential executive compensation.

The county’s human resources department says the highest base salary Przybyla could earn for his position is $127,510 a year, although he also becomes eligible for additional longevity pay after five years on the job.

Riggs said Przybyla’s accomplishments during his tenure included helping secure a $500,000 contract to create a broadband planning map covering five counties, including Tuolumne, which will help attract future subsidies and capital investments for high-speed Internet infrastructure.

“I know some people are critical of all the plans we make in government, but if we don’t we won’t be able to get grants,” she said. “He’s put us in a good position that when additional funds become available to put the (fiber optic lines) in place, he will have done all the hard work to enable us to actually start these projects.”

Przybyla has also been instrumental in supporting local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, Riggs said, including helping them navigate the application process for grants, loans and other financial assistance made available. .

Riggs also said Przybyla worked with county administrative analyst Jason Terry in his office to run a local digital gift card program that helped inject $1 million into local businesses over the holidays with funds corresponding COVID-19 relief supplies.

What will happen to Przybyla’s current position after he leaves remains unclear, as Riggs said she would like to discuss it first with the County Supervisory Board, as well as the new acting administrator of the city ​​of Sonora, Melissa Eads.

“This council is not who wrote this class spec or hired Cole, so whenever that happens it’s always a good time to sit down and see if we’re headed in the right direction,” he said. she said, referring to how three of the current five overseers were unelected at the time. “If not, then we can change.”

Riggs also said she wanted to meet with Eads about the possibility of the city and county forming some sort of economic development partnership again, though she stressed it wouldn’t be structured the same way. way as the former Tuolumne County Economic Development. Authority.

The old TCEDA was a so-called “Joint Powers Authority” that was formed in 2008 under an agreement between the city and county, with elected officials from both serving on the board of directors of the county. agency to provide oversight.

Such a structure allowed TCEDA to operate as a separate entity from both the city and the county, which contributed to the problems it found itself in in 2018 when the Tuolumne County Civil Grand Jury investigated the agency and found many problems with the loose oversight and spending policies of its chief executive, Larry Cope.

A public controversy that erupted in response to the jury report dragged on for months until the County Board of Supervisors and Sonora City Council each unanimously decided to disconnect and disband TCEDA entirely in February. 2019.

Cope received more than $120,000 in severance pay when his contract was prematurely terminated in March 2019, and he threatened to sue the county and city later that year over a problem with his retirement benefits from CalPERS. This still remains unresolved.

The TCEDA at the time of its dissolution cost the county and the city more than $460,000, the vast majority of which was paid for by the county, while the budget adopted for the internal department of Przybyla was less than $240,000 a year last.

Riggs said however the county chooses to approach economic development in the future, she believes such a position is important.

“Without this position, there is no one else to provide this level of support to our businesses, current or future,” she said. “Without local businesses, our communities die. We want a strong and vibrant community, so having someone who can support them – especially during times like COVID – I think is key.

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