Ventura County’s interim CEO gets permanent job

Sevet Johnson

Sevet Johnson, interim CEO for Ventura County, was selected Tuesday for the permanent position.

Board Chairwoman Carmen Ramirez made the announcement at about 2:30 p.m. after the board met for several hours in closed session and chose her unanimously.

Her contract will be presented for formal approval in an open session of the board on Sept. 13, Ramirez said. Her salary has not yet been set. The position was advertised at $335,554 annually, Ramirez said.

The Moorpark woman is the first African-American in the nearly 150-year history of the county to become the chief executive of the county government.

Ramirez said that almost 200 people from all over the nation applied for the job. Johnson has never served as a county CEO on a permanent basis but has filled the slot in an interim capacity since shortly after former CEO Mike Powers stepped down under pressure in March.

Supervisors began the national search after an investigation supported an employee’s claim that Powers had sexually harassed her and called her by a racially insensitive nickname. Powers denied the harassment allegation and said the employee did not seem offended the few times he used the nickname.

Ramirez said the board chose Johnson based on her personal characteristics, professional experience, skills and values.

“We felt she was the right person to lead the county at this time,” Ramirez said.

Supervisor Kelly Long described her as “a very strong leader that will do very well in this position.”

The other board members could not immediately be reached for comment. Johnson could not immediately be reached either.

When she accepted the interim position, Johnson said she did not plan to apply for the permanent job. But two weeks ago, she told The Star that she might accept the position if the board offered it to her.

Johnson formerly worked as director of the county’s Behavioral Health Department and had been expected to take over as chief deputy of the Health Care Agency when she was surprisingly picked as the interim CEO.

Ventura County employs about 10,000 people and provides services including health care, public safety and environmental regulation. 

Kathleen Wilson covers the Ventura County government, including the county health system, politics and social services. Reach her at kathleen.wilson@vcstar.com or 805-437-0271.

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