Show Some Respect

Ex-cop brings decorum to county meetings

By Howard Schmidt
February 2023

There’s a new vibe at the County Board of Supervisors. Call it more civilized.

Rich Desmond became board chair in January, replacing Don Nottoli, who retired after 28 years in office. The newcomer is Pat Hume, a former Elk Grove City Council member. He won election to replace Nottoli.

Desmond’s accession, Hume’s arrival and Nottoli’s departure mean changes in style, philosophy and office space.

A warning sign was issued late last year when supervisors deliberated some controversial county jail improvements. Desmond expressed concern about “the lack of civil discourse in our society.” He meant interruptions caused by opponents of the jail project.

As Desmond spoke, anti-jail agitators tried to disrupt him by making noise. Nottoli chaired the meeting as the antics commenced. Desmond let everyone know disruptive audience behavior was unacceptable.

“That’s not going to happen next year, I assure you,” he warned protesters. Now next year is here and the difference in style under Desmond is apparent.

Take public testimony, allocated by time limits, usually two or three minutes. Nottoli often let speakers ignore the clock. Generally tolerant, he rarely cut off people who swore or disrupted meetings.

Things are different under Desmond, a retired CHP officer. He’s a stickler for rules and decorum. He believes in speed limits and stop signs.

Nottoli’s departure forced a change to the physical layout of board member offices. Office moves are like musical chairs. Space is assigned based on seniority. Up for grabs are three corner suites and two less-spacious middle offices.

Nottoli had one of the prized corners. Senior Supervisors Phil Serna and Patrick Kennedy, comfortable in their corner suites, stayed put. Supervisor Sue Frost claimed Nottoli’s former space.

Frost joined the board in 2017. She outranks Desmond, who arrived in 2021. But Frost’s move wasn’t easy.

Nottoli was elected in 1994. He accumulated lots of stuff. His office was filled with papers, reports, proclamations, certificates, etc.

To get Frost’s new digs ready, Nottoli’s possessions had to be moved into a conference room before he left in December. That didn’t give county staff much time over the holiday break to clean, paint and prepare the office for Frost.

The timing impacted Desmond. When he joined the board, he was assigned the smaller middle office that requires visitors to squeeze past his secretary’s desk to access his private quarters.

With Frost taking Nottoli’s former space, Desmond moved to her ex-quarters, which are slightly larger. As the rookie, Hume gets stuck with Desmond’s old space.

Hume brings new perspectives, having campaigned as someone “who will do the hard work needed to solve local problems, not divide us with partisan politics.”

That’s welcome news. The board is supposed to be nonpartisan but has strayed lately into left vs. right fights.

Howard Schmidt worked on federal, state and local levels of government, including 16 years for Sacramento County. He can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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