After an exhaustive process of vetting applicants for the top job in San Luis Obispo County’s Veterans Services Department, a candidate now requires final approval from the Board of Supervisors.
Assistant County Administrator Guy Savage said that Christopher Lopez was chosen to be the County’s new veterans services officer (VSO). Lopez, an Army veteran, has previously served as the Santa Cruz County VSO and then worked in the Monterey County veterans services department. That experience was a major factor in his hiring, Savage said.
Lopez was among what Savage described as a big pool of capable candidates.
“He is by far the strongest candidate,” Savage said.
Under the proposed contract, Lopez’s starting salary will be $75,876 a year. That contract will go before the supervisors on Feb. 23.
The VSO oversees nine full-time equivalent employees and a budget of approximately $500,000. The department provides localized assistance to veterans and their families to obtain benefits, disability, employment, education, and other services. The department also collaborates with the SLO County Superior Court and other agencies to provide Veterans Treatment Court.
The position became vacant in September after then-VSO Dana Cummings’ resigned. Neither county officials nor Cummings would disclose the terms or specific reason for his departure because it was a confidential personnel matter. However, several documents and emails obtained through public records requests showed discontent with his management of the department and concerns about how cash donations were handled and deposited within the department.
Following Cummings’ departure, the county appointed U.S. Navy Cmdr. Paul Porter as interim veterans services officer. Porter is holding that post while also continuing his existing job as a manager in the county’s Information Technology Department.
-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay