Santa Barbara County's new CEO, Mona Miyasato
Courtesy Photo

The Board of Supervisors approved hiring new CEO Mona Miyasato (pictured) on Tuesday with a 5-0 vote, ending a months-long search after the supes decided not to renew current CEO Chandra Wallar’s contract in April. Miyasato, who starts December 9, comes from Marin County, where she served as chief assistant county administrator since 2008. Before that, she held multiple positions with the City of Santa Monica, including that of deputy city manager. “I am honored to be selected,” Miyasato said. “Santa Barbara is a world-class county, with engaged residents, dedicated employees, and a board that has made tough choices over the last several years to better position the organization toward a stable and thriving future.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, the supervisors thanked Wallar for her three years of service, especially given the tough financial landscape she navigated during her time on the South Coast. Her contract wasn’t renewed after the board discovered she had been seeking the same job in Orange County, which she ultimately declined because it was below her desired salary. In an email to The Santa Barbara Independent on Tuesday, Wallar said she had no firm plans for the immediate future “other than a short vacation with family. … I am hoping some exciting opportunity comes my way.”

Miyasato grew up in the Los Angeles area and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from UC Berkeley and a master’s in public policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. She originally wanted to be a journalist, she said, but felt that government service would be a better way to “effect change in whatever way I could.” Nels Johnson, a longtime county reporter for the Marin Independent Journal, praised Miyasato’s work, saying “she is among the very best” and that “a big loss for Marin is Santa Barbara’s gain.” Major issues facing Marin County during Miyasato’s tenure, Johnson said, included high-density, low-income housing and pensions. The Bay Area county is smaller than Santa Barbara (828 square miles compared to 3,789) with fewer residents (252,400 vs. 423,895), but Miyasato said the areas share a lot of the same values, including environmental activism, agricultural heritage, public safety, and financial stability.

Miyasato’s contract will run through December 2017. She will be paid $230,000 a year ​— ​$2,000 less than Wallar ​— ​and will receive $5,000 a year in retirement contributions, $600 a month for a car allowance (plus mileage reimbursement), and $20,000 for relocation expenses. She said she hadn’t yet decided where she will live but is looking forward to carrying on her Marin tradition of taking long walks with her husband and dog. “I’m thrilled to be starting there,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to it. There’s a great energetic vibe and history.” Assistant CEO Terri Nisich will serve as the interim chief until Miyasato starts in December. Miyasato will first meet with the board November 5.


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