Ron Cortez, one of Chief Executive Mike Brown’s right-hand men and a 14-year veteran of Santa Barbara County government, announced in a letter to friends and co-workers last week that he is leaving the county for a job at UCSB as the associate vice chancellor for administrative services. As such, Cortez will be assisting Vice Chancellor Donna Carpenter with organizational and management responsibilities. His last day with the county is March 22, and he begins his new job March 24. “I’m really excited about the opportunity,” Cortez said Friday. “There’s a lot of exciting things going on at the university.”
Cortez will be the second deputy CEO to leave the county in a matter of months. Jim Laponis retired in January after more than 30 years at the county. County Counsel Shane Stark also recently retired. Cortez’s departure leaves only Ken Masuda as a deputy executive officer under Brown, and Masuda is expected to retire sometime this year. Cortez praised the work Brown is doing in the county executive office, and thanked him for his time. “This has been an invaluable experience and I appreciate the trust he has placed in me,” Cortez wrote of his boss. Brown promoted Cortez twice during their ten years at the county together. Brown was out of town at a seminar Friday and unavailable for comment.
Before coming to work for Santa Barbara County, Cortez was at the County of Merced, where he began one of the first recycling market development zones in the state of California. “I have a background working in environmental programs,” Cortez said, “and I get to work on sustainability at UCSB, which was a big draw for me.” Previous to that he was an officer in the Air Force where he flew planes for eight years.
Cortez has had a variety of roles during his time at the county, including deputy director of Public Works, director of General Services, acting director of Planning and acting director of Housing and Community Development. He overhauled the planning department after the resignation of Val Alexeeff in 2005. “I found it very challenging, stressful and exciting,” Cortez said. “The land use structure is what keeps [the county] looking like it does.”