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Fair on look-out for new CEO

February 14, 2014

The Eastern Sierra Tri-County Fair Board will meet Wednesday to interview two fair CEO candidates. The CEO is responsible for managing major events like the Tri-County Fair (above) and for financial management and grounds maintenance at the fairgrounds. Photo by Mike Gervais

The Eastern Sierra Tri-County Fairgrounds is looking for a new boss.
The Tri-County Fair 18th District Agricultural Association Board of Directors will meet at noon Wednesday, Feb. 19 to consider, among other things, selection of a new CEO.
Interim Fair CEO Sam Dean said this week that the board has not actually made the decision to hire a new leader for the fairgrounds, and will have to check its finances before any final decision is made.
What the board will be doing next week is interviewing two final candidates who have applied for the position.
Longtime Fair CEO Jim Tatum, who had held the post for about 20 years, retired in November 2012 to take the job of Inyo County Deputy Public Works Director.
Tatum left the fairgrounds at a time when state budget cuts to the tune of $200,000 had drastically impacted the way the fairgrounds had done businesses.
At the time, Tatum said that his “salary and benefits package is the single largest expense” and he felt his retirement would be “mutually beneficial,” because he recommended that the Board of Directors leave the CEO position vacant to generate salary savings. Tatum suggested his tasks could be divided up among the existing staff.
The board took Tatum up on his suggestion, and left the CEO position vacant until August 2013, when news broke of an investigation into alleged embezzlement at the fairgrounds. That month, one longtime fair employee was relieved of her duties and Dean, a longtime member of the Tri-County Fair Board of Directors, was appointed as the interim CEO.
Earlier this year, the fairgrounds began advertising for the CEO position, and in early February board members Maria Kemp, Joanne Parsons and Kris Hartnett were assigned to a CEO review subcommittee.
That group was tasked with interviewing and evaluating six applicants who expressed interest in the position. Dean said the subcommittee has narrowed the field down to what it feels are the best two candidates, who will be interviewed by the entire fair board Wednesday.
While the board may elect to hire a new CEO at Wednesday’s meeting, Dean said “that’s not final yet. They’re looking into going a different direction (and hiring a permanent CEO) but we will have to assess our financial situation.”
Dean said that hiring a new CEO may provide some salary savings to the fairgrounds, considering that Tatum was a 20-plus-year employee, “but we have to wait and see after the interviews come out.”
Dean said the fair CEO handles a number of responsibilities, from grounds maintenance and budgeting to organization of some of the Eastern Sierra’s favorite events like the annual Junior Livestock Show and Auction in July and the Tri-County Fair in September.
Dean said the new CEO should be someone with experience with grounds maintenance, budgeting and the agricultural side of fair operations, “and they have to do everything according to state Fairs and Expositions” standards.

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