Carbajal Selected to Lead OC Public Works

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November 10, 2009

Contact: Howard Sutter, 714.834.6203

Carbajal Selected to Lead OC Public Works 

(Santa Ana, CA) — County Executive Officer Thomas G. Mauk has appointed Jess Carbajal as Director of OC Public Works, which includes the County’s Facilities, Planning and Engineering divisions.

Carbajal has served in management positions with the County of Orange for ten years and has served as Chief Deputy Director for OC Public Works for the past ten months. “I am confident that Jess possesses the right combination of experience, skills and professionalism necessary to meet the challenges and opportunities faced by OC Public Works,” said Mauk.

Carbajal previously served the County as Director of Administration for the Social Services Agency and Deputy Director of the former Housing and Community Services Department. Prior to joining the County, Carbajal held the position of Director of Community and Economic Development for the cities of Paramount and Baldwin Park. He started his career in public service with the City of Bell as Assistant City Manager for Community Services.

A graduate of California State University, Los Angeles with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration, Carbajal earned his Masters in Public Administration from the University of Southern California. He was a member of the first graduating class of the Orange County Leadership Academy, a County program designed to help develop the next generation of County leaders.

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Here is additional background on Carbajal, from an SSA newsletter:

A Day in the Life of Jess Carbajal, Director of Administrative Services
By Lisa Follmer

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Sure. I love sports.  In high school I played football, baseball, and was involved with track.  For a time, I also played baseball at Cal State Long Beach, before I had to buckle down to complete my education.  I went on to get a masters degree in Public Administration as well as a MBA from USC.  I also had a lot fun along the way, and my love of music led to a stint as drummer who toured with Sheila E.  My wife and I are raising our three beautiful daughters, who also love sports. 

What is Your Vision for the Administrative Services Division in the New Century?

One of the things that attracted me to the Social Services Agency was the opportunity to work with the largest agency in the county that addresses a diversity of issues.  I think County leaders are looking to the future and questioning how services provided by the County should be delivered.  I think we’re at a new crossroads that’s full of opportunities and challenges.  For example, some of the questions that come to mind are, “What’s the County’s position on regional issues?” and “What is our role as a regional leader in County services?” 

I see that one of the things SSA is now in a position to do is to take on a greater leadership role in re-designing many of the processes and programs that effect SSA departments countywide. We at SSA need to be positioned and ready to pilot and implement new innovations and help ensure that the entire County provides better and more accountable services. 

Administrative Services job is to assist and ensure that every division within SSA is successful.  Our goal from an Administration standpoint is to seek how we can help the other divisional teams become the most efficient, best-trained, and best at what they do in their respective fields.  This is my motivation, my drive and my passion for what I do.  I want to challenge staff and Administration to look at everything we do and ask, “Do we need to continue to do this? Can we change these things, simplify them, or streamline them to make them work better and more efficiently for us?”

Part of Your Vision is to Enable Others to Act. Is That Right?

I want Administrative staff to have the courage on important business needs to help their colleagues out.  I want to help remove the fear-factor that I sense from staff at times, when you can see them thinking something like, “I wanted to say something but I didn’t.”  I want to remove that; I want to encourage staff to get involved, to provide feedback, and to know that we’re going to evaluate their input and take it seriously. 

Everyone has strengths and our role as leaders is to encourage our staff. Also, we want to create opportunities for employees who demonstrate teamwork and commitment, who display a positive attitude, who exhibit cooperation and customer service; we want to provide mentors to help these employees develop professionally within the organization. 

What Are Your Thoughts About the Administrative Services Work Group Tasked to Look at Communication Within the Division and With Other SSA Divisions?

I really support the work group.  Its focus is a big thing for me.  For the past several months, I have seen some of the best work accomplished here at SSA/Administration.  I have seen much of this hard work into which Administration staff pour themselves and yet it’s behind the scenes, so not many know or hear about it.  I want SSA/Administration to communicate our success.  I want to put a face and a voice to the many Administration staff that are doing some awesome work on behalf of other agency employees and the community.

I think the most important piece for the work group is to suggest ways to encourage and challenge everyone.  Often times in Administration, there is a tendency to focus on things when they go wrong; but I want us to learn from our mistakes and grow from them.  I’d like us to change that mindset and to look to find ways to highlight employees doing the right thing. Encouraging employees to do the right thing is contagious; once one person does it, someone else does it; when one person is positive, the other is positive.  We need to find a way to celebrate the many successes and talents that we have because this is one of the most diverse talented teams with which I have had the opportunity to work.

What Does Success Look Like to You and How Will You Know That Success is Being Realized for the Division?

Success is something you work at daily.  Success is something that becomes part of the culture and spirit of an organization.  Once Administration staff see how awesome we are and how much we can achieve together, I think that will be the start.  I also think success for me is when I hear through the grapevine that someone from another program has said,  “Thank you,” to one of my staff, that someone has recognized that there is value in the fact that someone within Administrative Services made a difference.  Several weeks ago, I was sitting with a colleague who gave the Administration Division a great compliment and shared with me that she could see all of the extra effort Administration was putting forth in our Customer Services area.  I thanked her for sharing her observations and told her how much her words lifted my spirits.  We all need that at times and it was truly appreciated by me.  So that to me is what is successful.

What do you Find Most Satisfying About Your Work?

Seeing our staff develop.  There’s nothing better then going to Orangewood and seeing we are making a difference there and seeing the small children and knowing there are clients out there that are thankful for what we are doing.  I recently attended the Heart Gallery Adoptions’ Sweet Celebrations Event.  I was able to sit by a family that spoke minimal English; I was able to converse with them in Spanish, and they had nothing but great things to say about their experience with the adoption process.  This interaction gave me that great sense of feeling that I belong to this great organization, there are so many staff in this agency doing some great things.  That kind of feedback just warms my heart.

If You Weren’t Working for SSA What Would You be Doing?

That’s a tough question.  I don’t know.  Had I not came to SSA, I probably might have ended up in one of the other county agencies; but there is something about SSA that continues to keep me here.  I like the work we do as an agency.  I like the things that are part of our mission and our vision of serving our clients of Orange County and I like the challenges ahead.

Any Closing Thoughts?

I just want to continue to encourage Administration staff to get involved, share your ideas, and risk in re-inventing yourselves.  It’s really about going forward in the years to come.  It’s about the passion that we bring to our customers and it’s about the love people have about the work they do that is really going to make the difference.  That is why I want our staff to know change starts with us and our #1 job is to support the programs.  Our goal should be to support them to a level of excellence and for Administration staff to challenge themselves to help build model programs, systems, and processes that we can share with colleagues around the county.  I want the Administration staff to know that I care about them and that our colleagues are seeing the changes and are truly very appreciative of the hard work and assistance we provide.

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