County Administrative Officer Wade Horton resigned.
County Supervisors will have to search for a new administrative officer after the current County Administrative Officer resigned suddenly after a closed session meeting where they were planning to give him a job performance review.
County Administrative Officer, Wade Horton, turned in his resignation March 21 sitting through the remainder of the bi-monthly Supervisor’s meeting in what has been described as a stunned silence.
Horton’s last official day will be May 1, according to a news release the County put out. He had been slated to undergo a job performance review during the closed session but according to news accounts, he handed in his resignation instead and never underwent the long-overdue review. Ordinarily, such performance reviews are done every year or every-other year, but Horton had not had a review since becoming CAO in 2017.
Board Chairman and Dist. 1 Supervisor, John Peschong said, “We can’t thank Mr. Horton enough for his honorable and committed dedication to the County of San Luis Obispo.”
“He has navigated the County,” Peschong added, “through some of its most difficult times, including acting as Emergency Services Director during the COVID-19 crisis and recent rainstorms, setting up a Homeless Division to better address the nationwide problem of homelessness and working with local cities and community partners to provide affordable housing with professionalism, integrity, and a spirit of cooperation. He is a true public servant that has made a real difference in the County throughout his tenure.”
He had also navigated the Supervisors through a contentious re-districting process in 2021, following the 2020 Census. That redrawing of the district map was challenged by a citizen’s group and the new board majority — elected after the 2022 General Election — recently voted to settle the lawsuit challenging the new district map. Supervisors will in April take public comments on which of the other maps that were submitted before the so-called “Patten Map” was approved and put into effect at the 2022 Primary Election and the November General Election.
Horton was named CAO in 2017 and had been the County Public Works Director since 2014. He was deputy utilities/water director for the City of SLO for five years prior to moving to the County.
Horton is a Cal Poly graduate who’d spent 16 years in civil engineering, including five at the City of SLO when he moved over to the County in 2014. He was also a Navy Reservist.
Despite the suddenness of his resignation, officially, Horton was magnanimous to supervisors and the County. “It has been an absolute privilege to serve the Board, organization and residents of San Luis Obispo County for the last 8 years,” Horton said in a prepared statement. “I am proud of all we have accomplished together, and I am thankful for the many opportunities the County has afforded to make a difference in our community alongside a talented staff, and so many incredible partners from local government, business, education and our nonprofit community.”
Supervisors intend to look far and wide for a new CAO. Supervisors would “open a nationwide search for a new County Administrative Officer who can continue leading County efforts to address the challenging issues in our community, including homelessness, the statewide mental health crisis, and the regional need for affordable housing.”
No interim CAO has as yet been named by the Supervisors. The assistant CAO is Rebecca Campbell and would be a possible choice to fill in while the recruitment is conducted.
Supervisor Peschong added, “We will miss Wade’s energy, determination, and ‘can-do’ attitude. I know I speak for everyone at the County in wishing him all the best in his next chapter.”
EBN sent an email sent to Horton asking about his future plans but it was not returned before deadline.