The County Administrator (CAO) is the county’s top staff member. While the position has many titles (Chief Executive, County Manager, County Administrative Officer, Chief Administrative Officer, Administrative Coordinator, Administrative Officer, County Administrator, Administrative Director, Administrative Services Director, Executive Officer, County Executive), the functions remain basically the same from county to county. The CAO is responsible for the day-to-day functions of the county and prepares the annual budget for the Board of Supervisors. The office typically coordinates the activities of appointed and elected department heads to ensure the effectiveness of county operations and may perform topical analyses on issues before the Board of Supervisors.
The primary function of the CAO is to oversee the preparation, adoption, and administration of the county budget. The CAO also coordinates the activities of other departments to ensure the effective accomplishment of the Board’s directions and policies. The CAO is the day-to-day manager of a county government and represents the county and Board of Supervisors in a variety of activities. In addition, in some counties, the County Administrator is authorized to hire and fire certain county department heads. In other counties, the Board of Supervisors retains this authority.
The Office of the County Administrator may be used to provide the Board of Supervisors with objective analyses of issues on its agenda and often the Board looks to its CAO for recommendations. Working with the elected offices of auditor-controller, treasurer, tax collector and assessor, the CAO also acts as the chief financial officer for the county, coordinating the efforts of those finance-related offices in the preparation and administration of the county budget.
The County Administrator typically provides the Board of Supervisors with recommendations regarding labor relations and other matters involving employee benefits and may represent the Board of Supervisors in labor negotiations. Through the coordination of departmental activities, the CAO works to resolve differences among departments and ensure that county government operates harmoniously.