Faced without a high-level manager to keep track of its vast land holdings, Orange County leaders are pushing forward with plans to hire an executive for the job.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to start the hiring process for a chief of county real estate, a new position that would report directly to the county CEO.

“We need to hire someone to run this department. It is a rudderless ship at this point,” said Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who’s been at the forefront of the centralization effort.

“It’s embarrassing, frankly,” he said.

Supervisors had planned on having staffers conduct a top-to-bottom review of their real estate practices before seeking a top manager.

But they decided to move forward with the hiring Tuesday, after county CEO Bob Franz said the review would take four months.

The county staff report didn’t include a job description or qualifications for the new position.

Franz said he’d provide a timeline for the hiring process to supervisors by the end of this week. In the meantime, the county’s 12-member corporate real estate staff has been transferred to the CEO’s office.

The issue speaks to a conundrum facing the county: how to balance centralized and decentralized services.

As they have with purchasing, human resources and information technology, county leaders have acknowledged that the current mishmash of centralization and decentralization has wrought confusion and inefficiencies within the $5.6-billion regional government.

Real estate includes a hodgepodge of county-owned assets and deals with landlords. Centralizing real estate management is included as a top priority in the county’s strategic plan.

Nelson noted that county government is the second-largest landowner in Orange County. The Irvine Co. is believed to be the largest.


You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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