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Madera County Has New Top Administrator, Acting Sheriff

Jay Varney, new Madera County chief administrative officer

MADERA — Supervisors made it official Tuesday morning: Former Sheriff Jay Varney is now the County’s top day-to-day administrator.

At the start of today’s (June 2) meeting, which was chaired by Supervisor Rob Poythress, the board formally appointed Varney to be the County’s new chief administrative officer. 

“He will take over as a strong leader,” said Supervisor Frazier. “Jay is exactly who we need in that position right now.”

Varney will oversee a 1,400-employee County staff and annual operating budget of $350 million.

“I think I have a skill set that should be really positive for this position,” Varney said. “I will do my best to make Madera County proud.”

Supervisor Frazier also thanked Darin McCandless, who had been serving as the County’s acting CAO. “He’s done a really good job.”

Undersheriff Tyson Pogue, who by law becomes the acting sheriff until the board makes a formal appointment, spoke briefly at Tuesday’s meeting too, thanking Sheriff Varney and calling him a “great” mentor.

The board has scheduled further discussion regarding the formal Sheriff position appointment for next week’s regular board meeting. Sheriff Varney’s term runs another year and a half.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:

  • Supervisors voted to go forward with an eminent domain action against a private landowner in the path of the Oakhurst Midtown Connector Project. Community Development Director Matt Treber said the landowner was in the process of getting a new appraisal to confirm the County’s offer.
  •  “It’s a brand-new program,” Ag Commissioner Stevie McNeill said after supervisors formally approved a new section in the County’s Agricultural Code allowing large-scale (up to 80 acres) cultivation of industrial hemp in Madera County. The vote to allow cultivation of one of the country’s fastest growing commodities was not unanimous. Supervisors Max Rodriguez and David Rogers voted “no.”
  •  Rhonda Salisbury, CEO of Visit Yosemite | Madera County, gave supervisors a brief update regarding the current plan to reopen Yosemite National Park — which is seeing local tourism leaders lobbying for more flexibility in establishing operating parameters for the park post COVID-19.

And in an unfortunate sign of the times, Supervisor David Rogers, the current board chairman, had to participate in the meeting via Webex teleconferencing. Rogers was in home isolation after being exposed during the past week to COVID-19. “I’ll be indisposed for a little bit here,” Rogers said at the end of Tuesday’s board session.

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