Fifth District Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins announced the selection of her new district director last week, naming Leo Chyi to the job now held by Graton resident Susan Upchurch.
Chyi will start in two weeks working with Upchurch, who announced earlier this year that she intends to retire in October.
“Leo Chyi has an incredible background,” Upchurch said in an email announcing Chyi’s selection. Chyi’s resume includes working with the city and County of San Francisco for more than 10 years, most recently managing a $200 million budget for its Department of Children, Youth & Their Families, Upchurch said. “His educational background includes a Stanford undergraduate degree in Earth Systems (Lynda’s field of study as well) and an MPA from the prestigious Princeton Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.”
Chyi, who has extensive experience in budget analysis and policy development, was looking for an opportunity “to work directly with our community in the Fifth District,” Upchurch said. “He and his partner have been regular visitors to west county for many years, own a home here and are active CSA (community supported agriculture) members. He looks forward to ditching the commute, working fulltime in Sonoma County and more deeply connecting with our wonderful community.”
Chyi was selected from a strong field of 35 candidates who applied for the job, with 18 applicants selected for interviews, Upchurch said.
“Despite his lofty credentials — he speaks four languages including Spanish — Leo is very down to earth and committed to public service,” Upchurch said. “Leo begins his tenure on Aug. 23, and I look forward to working with him. I believe that together we will be able to create innovative institutional change that will benefit the beautiful west county.”
The job opening offered a rare opportunity for interested candidates to apply for the position. No prior Fifth District supervisor going back more than 40 years has put the aide’s job out for applicants, preferring instead to hire someone close and trusted with roots in the district.
“I wanted to have an open recruitment,” Hopkins said, when she announced the director’s job opening earlier this year. “I wanted someone who has the skills and the passion for the west county.”
The application window closed June 19 to provide time to find the best person to come on board before Upchurch retires, Hopkins said. “I’m making sure there’s plenty of overlap with Susan” before the new person takes over.
“Susan has more than a decade of experience,” Hopkins said. “Her commitment to public service is unparalleled.”
Upchurch began as district director under Fifth District Supervisor Efren Carrillo, who took office in 2008 and has proven adept at dealing with west county’s diverse political landscape.
Before Upchurch arrived, the Fifth District aide’s job was held by Carol Mills, who served under Supervisor Ernie Carpenter for 16 years and another 12 with his successor, Mike Reilly.
“The job has changed a lot since that time,” Upchurch said. “It was more of a support position. It’s evolved over the last 10 years. It means reaching out to the entire community.”
Chyi’s multilingual skills will also be a plus in the diverse Fifth District, she said.
According to the job description posted online, the new director “will research emerging policy and governmental issues, analyze legislative trends and proposals, interact with the public in both small and large groups to gather information, listen to constituent concerns, research issues, develop solutions and represent the county positively.”
The job requires analysis of the county budget, recommendations regarding county policy and assistance “in prioritizing expenditures and county programs and initiatives.”
The ideal candidate “will be politically aware and interested, professional, empathetic, tactful, have excellent verbal and written communication skills, be emotionally intelligent with strong interpersonal skills, and be comfortable discussing issues with diverse individuals and groups with divergent points of view.”
“Responding to the public’s concerns via phone, email and regular mail is an important element to the position,” read the post. “Dealing appropriately with confidential issues is expected.”
The district director’s salary range is $72,360 to $87,951 annually, depending on experience, plus an additional $7,200 annual cash allowance.