The 44th District Agriculture Association on Thursday appointed Laura Ford, a Colusa County Fairgrounds staffer, as interim chief executive officer until a permanent replacement for Jonathan Howard could be found.
Howard was ousted Oct. 12 after serving as the fairgrounds chief less than three years.
The Fair Board said it will likely take several months to hire a new manager, but they are confident Ford is the right person to handle the job.
“We need a person to be a point of contact,” said Director Jamie Traynham. “We need a person here at the fairgrounds. We need someone to be in charge while we go through this process.”
Ford has been the fairgrounds office manager for 2.5 years, and previously worked for the Butte County fairgrounds.
Fair Board continuity is important and Ford has been doing the work since Howard’s firing.
Pumpkin Village ran smoothly, the board agreed, and they anticipate Ford will handle upcoming events just as well.
“We have the Farm Show coming up and I think having someone new would just be a massive disruption and distraction,” said Director Tony Garofalo.
The Fair Board has a state-approved job flyer for the position, which they used when they recruited Howard, but some members said they wanted to add additional verbiage.
Director Victor Matamoros, board vice-president, said he researched recruitment flyers for chief executive officers for other county fairs and preferred those with more detailed requirements, especially with regard to experience.
Matamoros said that while the job description emphasizes what the Board expects in terms of managerial, leadership, and communication skills, he would like more specific requirements for length of past employment managing similar enterprises with similar budgets.
“I would love to see someone with a lot of financial background,” Matamoros said.
The board said they plan to fine-tune their job description, which will then be posted for a minimum of 45 days on the state’s website.
Top candidates would then be scheduled for interviews and a background check completed before the Fair Board makes a permanent job offer.
The CEO salary ranges from $68,736 to $84,180, plus benefits. The annual operating budget for the fairgrounds is about $800,000, and, in addition to managing established events and grounds, the CEO is expected to generate new sources of revenue, the board said.
Fair Board President Terry Bressler said that during the last recruitment, the board had applicants from all over California, and as far away as Nebraska.
“I say we’re not going to have a CEO onboard until Farm Show,” Bressler said.
Once the position is open and posted, Ford would also be eligible to apply for the position. Meanwhile, she said she is grateful the Fair Board has put their trust in her as they move “full-steam ahead.”
In addition to Farm Show preparations, Ford is managing the annual Holiday Craft Show, which will be held Nov. 18-19.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to move forward,” Ford said. ■