Courtesy of Capitol Morning Report

Paul McIntosh, executive director of the California State Association of Counties, likens his love of counties to Tommy Lasorda’s love for the Dodgers. “If you cut me,” McIntosh riffs on the famous Lasorda quote, “I bleed counties.” McIntosh may come to rely on that passion in coming months as he and others at CSAC help California’s 58 counties wade through some of the biggest shifts in policy the local governments have experienced in years.

Gov. Jerry Brown wants to “let the Kernites be Kernites and the Modocians be Modocians.” Or put another way, he’d like to give counties (including Kern and Modoc) more local control. A huge part of that shift is giving counties supervision over non-violent felons who previously would have gone to state prison. It is dubbed realignment and McIntosh says that on Brown’s first full day in office – on Jan. 4, 2011 – the governor visited the CSAC offices on K St. and rolled out his proposal. “He spent an hour and a half here talking with us about his philosophy,” says McIntosh. “He ran on a campaign where he wanted to divest responsibility from the state and bring it back down to the local government.” The shift to local control gives counties greater autonomy in crafting plans to better rehabilitate felons and protect the public, says McIntosh, but the shift will cost big bucks during an era of cutbacks. “From the very first day we talked about the need for some constitutional protections and guaranteed funding,” says McIntosh. Those proposed protections have gone through various iterations over the past year, from a proposed constitutional amendment which failed to get the required votes in the Legislature to put it on the ballot to CSAC gearing up to run its own initiative. CSAC board of directors decided to drop the initiative effort earlier this month after another pep talk by Brown (first at The Broiler restaurant, then the next day at the CSAC offices) in which Brown asked the association to support his sales-tax initiative, which contains language with constitutional and funding guarantees for counties. And if that initiative fails? “The Governor has pledged that if his initiative fails, he will come right back and help us gain the constitutional protections we need, up to, and including, calling a special election,” says McIntosh.

To help counties craft the policies needed to implement realignment, CSAC, the Chief Probation Officers of California and the California State Sheriff’s Association are offering seminars in counties up and down the state where officials share tips on how to develop strong probation and rehabilitation models for parolees. Most counties are embracing the shift, says McIntosh. “But there are some counties that still want to follow an incarceration model,” he adds, declining to name the counties. “I think we’ve already proven that an incarceration model won’t work. We can’t afford it and we don’t have enough room and people to lock everybody up.”

As if realignment weren’t a big enough policy shift for CSAC, other large issues loom. CSAC is helping counties grapple with the proposed $1 billion in cuts to social services in Brown’s budget. County auditors/controllers also will oversee the local dissolution of redevelopment agencies, since they control the allocation of tax monies to districts.

McIntosh, 60, says he loves the challenges of his job. He “bleeds counties,” as he likes to say, because they are where the “rubber hits the road” as far as policy playing out in the lives of people. He grew up in Indiana and joined the Navy in 1970 and served in Vietnam. He earned his undergraduate degree in public administration and a master’s degree in public affairs, both from Indiana University. He interned as a graduate student in DC at what was then the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. After graduate school, his wife, Sue Hegedus, an educator, wanted to move to California. (“She liked the mountains,” he says.) In California, McIntosh initially worked for a management consulting firm in the Bay Area doing needs assessments for counties. “I discovered California counties and I fell in love with the local government concept,” he says. His first formal job with a county was as a deputy in the County Administrator’s Office in Solano County in 1982 where he helped craft the nation’s first variable rate certificates of participation to fund a new criminal justice center. The COP’s allow jurisdictions to issue short term bonds with much lower interest rates that change weekly. McIntosh served as CAO of El Dorado County from 1988 to 1995, worked for an executive recruiting firm for a couple of years, then did two stints working as a county executive outside of California – from 1998 to 2000 in Arizona and from 2000 to 2002 in Florida. McIntosh, his wife and two adult children, came back to California in 2002 when McIntosh accepted a position as CAO of Butte County, a job he held until he was recruited to head up CSAC in 2007. McIntosh says the CSAC gig is the “pinnacle of his career.”

An avid golfer and photographer (some of his pictures hang in his office). McIntosh lives outside Paradise in Butte County and commutes to Sacramento each day.

By Pamela Martineau, Capitol Morning Report