Calaveras County Auditor-Controller Rebecca Callen is leaving her post to take a job as a Save Mart accountant in Modesto.
“I have immensely enjoyed my time here as an employee and a public servant and I am so grateful to the board, employees and the constituents for supporting me for almost 13 years,” Callen wrote in a July 29 resignation letter. “I am so proud of the work that my staff and I have done here and I know that most of those accomplishments will continue to support the county long after I am gone.”
After serving as auditor-controller for two four-year terms, Callen took almost 99% of the votes in the 2018 primary election for the position.
In an Aug. 2 phone interview, Callen told the Enterprise that she’s leaving for a few reasons. She and other elected department heads are compensated around 30% to 40% of the rate of those positions in other jurisdictions, and since she took office, supervisors have been hesitant to grant increases, Callen said.
Callen, along with other elected department heads, currently makes $53.79 per hour.
“We are working department heads,” Callen said, with reference to the County Assessor, Auditor/Controller, Treasurer/Tax Collector and Clerk Recorder, which are all elected positions. “We have daily responsibilities that are in the weeds … There are a lot of requirements to do these jobs and not enough staff to (handle the workload) … If the board had done something to acknowledge the growth and equity and compensation of all the elected (department heads) and making that better, I think that I probably would not have been looking (outside of the county for work). As much as I love being a public official, I have to consider my future, my retirement benefits and my family.”
Additionally, Callen said she’s had to take on a heavier load than an auditor-controller normally would due to the rapid turnover rate of county officials. She added that some non-elected department heads in the county have less responsibilities but are earning more.
“I think over the years I’ve had to assume a lot more responsibility than what the role of auditor-controller is supposed to be handling,” Callen said, with reference to her oversight on the county budget process, the Office of Emergency Services and the overall administration of the county. “I’m just burnt out.”
Callen will remain a resident of the county, and is “excited to just be a voter and taxpayer, and enjoy what Calaveras County has to offer. I’m ready to make a move, and this is a great opportunity for me and my career,” she said.
In an Aug. 5 phone interview, District 3 Supervisor Merita Callaway called Callen’s resignation “a loss for the county, in that she is very professional.”
“She didn’t let any department get away with anything, but at the same time, if there was a creative way to help pay for something, she would help them find it,” Callaway said. “Her loyalty was definitely to the taxpayers and the accounting system of the State of California. She educated us on it, and she was very good at explaining why something had to be the way it was. She also understood the goals of departments and she always walked a fine line between what we legally had to do, and tried to help us find a way to provide a service. I’m going to miss working with her.”
Callaway said salary increases for elected officials are always controversial, but sometimes that’s something a board has to take up.
“Sometimes we have to do what’s equitable … what’s correct, but what might not be politically popular,” Callaway said.
The last day on the job for Callen will be Sept. 1, 2019.
Callen has recommended that county supervisors appoint Kathy Gomes, the current deputy auditor-controller to fill the position for the remainder of the term through 2022.