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Napa County needs a Treasurer-Tax Collector because of a resignation. James Hudak is offering his decades of experience in public and private sector finance to the county for no more than two years.

The Board of Supervisors sees this as a good match. Last week, it tentatively chose Hudak to fill the elected position, pending a background check. It did so after interviewing Hudak and four other candidates in public session.

“For right now, for what we need, I really think Mr. Hudak is the person we should appoint today,” Supervisor Diane Dillon said before the Board’s vote.

The county needs a local resident to step into a position that oversees a more than $600 million pooled portfolio for the county, schools and other agencies. The Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office mails and collects about 51,000 property tax bills annually.

In June, voters elected incumbent Tamie Frasier to a new, four-year term after she ran unopposed. But Frasier decided to step down for personal reasons from the full-time job that pays $195,021 annually and the county needs a replacement until voters speak again in March 2020.

Hudak recently retired from leading Paradigm Management Services. His submitted resume includes being volunteer treasurer for the city of Orinda from 2008 to 2013, almost 30 years of private sector jobs and being chief financial officer for the chief administrative officer in San Francisco from 1978 to 1980.

“I have been looking for a way to contribute to the community of Napa during the last year as I was winding down my corporate career,” the Yale-educated Hudak wrote to the county.

Supervisor Belia Ramos noted the county is looking for someone to keep the Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office afloat until the next election.

“I’m sure he can float the ship if he has floated bonds on the market,” Ramos said.

But Hudak said something during his interview that supervisors had to weigh – he’s only a short-term solution.

“I just want to be clear – this is something I see as an opportunity for me to contribute a unique skill to the community, to get involved in the community … I’m not interested in the long-term career here. But I would like to help out,” Hudak said.

Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza was the lone supervisor to vote against Hudak, instead favoring Michael Murray. Murray is chief financial officer for Napa Recycling & Waste Services and sits on the city of Napa Planning Commission.

Pedroza wanted to appoint somebody who will run for the Treasurer-Tax Collector position in 2020 for the long-term stability of the department. Murray can do the job now and allow the public to look at someone who is interested in running for the seat, he said.

“I think we’re doing the public a benefit by looking at Mike Murray,” Pedroza said.

But the other four supervisors didn’t mind selecting Hudak knowing he might have the job for only two years.

“The long-term is presumptuous of us to play a role in,” Ramos said. “Our mandate from the government code is to fill this position and provide this bridge for that purpose.”

Before the interviews, Napa County Superintendent of Schools Barbara Nemko urged the Board to take more time. She didn’t think the county reached out enough to schools, given schools have 40 percent of the money in the treasury.

The Treasurer-Tax Collector invests money and manages cash flow, Nemko said. Whoever fills this position has to be extremely competent and must work with the Auditor-Controller’s Office and the Assessor’s Office.

“It is a critical position,” she said. “Somebody new coming in doesn’t have that background and experience and is going to be on a very steep learning curve learning with our money.”

A majority of supervisors said Hudak is the person to fill the role and Pedroza had Hudak as his second choice behind Murray. If the background check goes well, the Board will appoint Hudak to the post in January.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.