By CLARK MASON and BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Rod Dole, the longtime Sonoma County auditor, controller, treasurer and tax collector, announced his retirement Tuesday a month after being sworn in to office for his seventh term.
Dole, 58, said the decision was prompted by family health issues.
“My wife and I have been dealing with some health issues. They seem to be resolved now. It’s a good time to enjoy ourselves and take some time for ourselves,” he said Tuesday.
After he retires May 31, Dole will collect a pension equal to his $208,649 annual salary .
Hired as an auditor 35 years ago, Dole worked his way up to audit manager before he was appointed auditor/controller in 1985 after his predecessor suffered a heart attack in office. Dole was elected the following year and has been in office ever since, running opposed only one time. In 2006, a consolidation also added the duties of treasurer and tax collector.
Dole said that about a week or 10 days ago he quietly informed members of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors individually of his intent to leave.
Supervisors praised him Tuesday and said he will missed.
“There’s no question he’s been a stalwart public official and a very proud part of the county family. The guy really does live and breathe Sonoma County,” said Board Chairman Efren Carrillo.
“We’ll be losing a Superman basically,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane.
“He is absolutely stellar and incredible,” she said. “And while I’m not surprised about the announcement of his retirement, it’s disappointing to just have him leave the county family, given all of the incredible work he’s done.”
County Administrator Veronica Ferguson said he had been discussing retirement with county officials before making his decision.
“He’s been thinking about this for a while,” she said.
Public employee pensions and salaries have come under increasing scrutiny from taxpayers. But Dole defended his pension and pay structure.
“I don’t know what a CFO (Chief Financial Officer) for a three-billion-plus asset company (makes) out there. I know it’s higher than $200,000-plus,” he said.
Dole is a board member of the Sonoma County Employees’ Retirement Association, which oversees the county employee pension system.
“I’ve really enjoyed my career with the county. It’s been a very rewarding career and money was secondary,” he said. “I didn’t stay with it for the money, or pension, although I’m very grateful.”
Zane credited Dole with being “the brain” behind the county Energy Independence Program that allows homeowners to make energy efficiency home improvements and pay for them over 20 years on their property tax bills.
While supervisors were complimentary, Dole’s office did come in for criticism last year from some property owners upset that they had not been notified sooner when a property manager in Sonoma Valley failed to make tax payments on their behalf.
Dole’s tentative May 31 retirement date gives county officials some time to consider their options on an immediate replacement, Ferguson said.
One possibility that supervisors may study in the coming months is whether to consolidate Dole’s four titles — auditor, controller, treasurer and tax collector — into one director-of-finance position. That post would be appointed by supervisors instead of elected by voters, Ferguson said.
The change would have to be approved by voters, a step that could come as late as four years from now, since Dole was just re-elected in June.
If such a move is explored by supervisors, Dole’s position could be filled for the near-term on an interim basis, Ferguson said.
Dole said he has recommended his assistant, Donna Dunk, to be his replacement.
“It’s premature for me to say at this point which direction the board will choose,” Carrillo said. “The options are known but we haven’t had that discussion yet.”