SANTA CRUZ — Former Watsonville City Manager Carlos Palacios has been named the County Administrative Officer for Santa Cruz County.
He starts the position July 7.
Palacios replaces Susan Mauriello, who announced her retirement in January.
Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin announced that Palacios had accepted the job on June 14.
Palacios, 55, left his job as Watsonville city manager in 2014 after more than two decades to take the Deputy County Administrative Officer position.
Santa Cruz County Supervisor John Leopold said Palacios was offered the position after a nationwide search that began with 25 candidates. From that pool, the supervisors interviewed the top six candidates, he said.
“There were some good candidates, but Carlos stood out among them all,” Leopold said. “With his management skills, his understanding of county government and his knowledge of Santa Cruz made it a package that was hard to resist.”
Palacios will oversee an annual $720 million budget and a staff of 2,400 that provides services such as public safety, health care and social services, road maintenance, environmental protection and economic development.
As Watsonville city manager, Palacios established a strategic planning process for city government, helped develop the Civic Plaza Building and promoted downtown revitalization, among other things.
“Carlos is a man of exceptional character and integrity,” said Geoffrey Dunn, a local author, historian and filmmaker. “His selection not only marks a milestone in Latino political influence at the highest levels of county government, but he is a gifted and compassionate administrator who will serve the people of Santa Cruz County well. It’s wonderful to have someone at the top who reflects the diversity of our community.”
Palacios is currently a member of the Cabrillo College Foundation Board of Directors, and served as president in 2009.
He is a member of the Santa Cruz County Community Foundation Board of Directors. He previously served in various capacities with the League of California Cities, was a founding member and co-chair of Action Pajaro Valley, and was a 10-year member of the United Way Community Assessment Project Steering Committee.
A 25-year resident of Santa Cruz County, Palacios lives in Watsonville with his fiancée. He has one child.
“I’m really excited about the new job,” Palacios said. “It’s a great day.”
In the short term, Palacios said the county is currently performing some $100 million of repairs from storm damage at 252 sites throughout the county.
“That’s certainly a priority,” he said.
The county is also working on a facility at the Rountree Jail facility that will help inmates reintegrate into society, and remodeling the county’s health clinic and mental health clinics in Watsonville, Palacios said.
County officials are also developing a strategic planning process, with issues such as affordable housing, the homeless population and mental health services at the forefront.
“We have a great staff at the county and I’m excited to work in partnership with them,” Palacios said.