No matter how weird things have gotten in Orange County government in recent years, one thing reporters could count on was the calm, cool and professional voice of Jean Pasco on the other end of the phone.
Whether being asked for comment on a supervisors’ misstep, to explain a vague agenda item, or dig up an obscure document — Jean has always answered the call with the good humor and professionalism of someone who truly believes in the public’s right to know.
But as of the first of the year, she will be forwarding all calls and heading off into a well-deserved retirement. And when she goes, we will lose a source with nearly four decades of local government knowledge.
A former political reporter for the Orange County Register and Los Angeles Times, Pasco moved from reporting on county government to working for it in 2006, when she took a job with county Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly, running his office’s archives. She took over as the top spokeswoman for the county in October 2013.
Pasco says moving from reporting to working in government was not a hard transition.
“I always felt that being a journalist was an act of public service, so it wasn’t a big transition for me to go from being a journalist to working for the county,” said Pasco. “Having been in the building here for 35 years, you see a lot and learn a lot, so the county was not a mystery to me.”
Although she laments the lay-offs and the local media’s loss of institutional knowledge over the past decade, Pasco doesn’t believe coverage of local government will die out.
“When I was at the Register I would write six 20-inch stories out of a board meeting. You don’t see that volume of coverage anymore,” said Pasco, who also served on the board of the Orange County Press Club from 1984 to 2016.
“But there will always be interest in what government does because it’s so critical to civic life.”
Taking over for Pasco is Carrie Braun, who has been the public affairs manager for the OC Sheriff’s Department.
Pasco’s retirement will begin with a six-month road trip in her RV. “I’m on my ‘look for America’ tour, to quote Paul Simon,” she said.
Good luck Jean, we will miss you!