Thank you for the Napa Valley Register editorial board’s recent comments about the pending departures of several key Napa County administrators (“Napa County’s ‘Help Wanted’ list longer than we’d like it to be,” Sept. 13).
While we are grateful for the dedicated contributions of all public service employees, we’d like to specifically recognize outgoing Agricultural Commissioner Dave Whitmer, Planning Director Hillary Gitelman and Health and Human Services Director Randy Snowden.
These three stellar department heads have served our community selflessly, and we have had the pleasure of working with them on a variety of local wine industry issues during their respective careers with the county. We wish to publicly acknowledge their ability to bring divergent constituencies together to solve real problems and take action that has made Napa Valley an enviable place to live and work. Here are just a few examples:
• Three years ago, Whitmer gathered the industry’s brain trust and, through consensus building, helped to effectively defend Napa County from the threat of the European grapevine moth, a pest that could have caused devastation not only to our vineyards, but to the 46,000 jobs and $13 billion local annual economic impact of the Napa County wine industry and related businesses.
• During her tenure in the Napa County Planning Department, Gitelman deftly and diplomatically guided the industry through challenging land-use discussions, including two in-depth and often controversial reviews of the Winery Definition Ordinance. Her steady hand helped us to find the delicate balance between growth and preservation.
• Snowden has been a committed partner who provided valuable input for how grant funding from our annual charity fundraiser, Auction Napa Valley, could create the greatest impact among those in need. His respect for those who work in the often challenging nonprofit sector should also be commended.
The Napa Valley Register was absolutely correct; these three thoughtful, smart, effective leaders will not be easy to replace, but we are thankful for the time they gave to our community and we pledge our support to Napa County during this transition to ensure the continued health, well-being and effective functioning of our county government.
Linda Reiff is the executive director of Napa Valley Vintners.