Former CAO goes from listener to advocate
If you want to know how to get inside the heads of policymakers, hire someone who’s been there.
The Chico Chamber of Commerce has turned to former Butte County Chief Administrative Officer John Blacklock to advocate on behalf of businesses to government entities.
Blacklock was introduced in his new role at a July 22 press conference. Now 57, he retired from the county post in 2001 after nine years as CAO. Before that, Blacklock, who holds a master’s degree in business administration, worked as district coordinator for former state Senator Jim Nielsen.
The chamber has traditionally leaned to the right politically, and Blacklock indicated his views align with the current ideology. The chamber has become predictable in opposing such workers’ rights legislation as minimum wage increases.
First on Blacklock’s to-do list will be researching Senate Bill 1661, which would extend disability insurance so that a worker could take off, with some pay, up to 12 weeks to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a new baby. For businesses that employ only a handful of people, “It could present a really serious hardship,” Blacklock said of the proposal, on which the chamber has yet to take a formal position.
Ultimately, clarified Jim Goodwin, the chamber’s executive director, the group’s Board of Directors will still decide whether to support or denounce legislation.
Blacklock said he doesn’t expect to have anything to do with forming opinions on candidates for local offices, via the chamber’s controversial political action committee.
His contract calls for a scope of work, not a specific number of hours a week, which he said will allow him flexibility and more time with his 12-year-old son. Goodwin said the funding for Blacklock’s position will come from chamber members’ dues, not the money the city pays the chamber for its tourism activities. The only exception could be if a policy issue happened to come up concerning tourism, Goodwin said.
Blacklock doubts that his leadership in the attempt to recall 5th District Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi cost him when it comes to communicating with the Board of Supervisors. “There may be some sensitivity on Supervisor Yamaguchi’s part,” Blacklock acknowledged, adding that he believes he has a “fairly good” relationship with the board as a whole.
Blacklock is putting together the chamber’s Eggs & Issues forum for Sept. 27, focusing on the county’s Greenline that protects agricultural land from development. “Not everybody knows what it is and where it is and whether it’s accomplishing its purposes,” he said.
Judy Brislain-Bradford, chairwoman of the chamber’s Board of Directors, said the decision was made last fall to “reshape our advocacy program.”
“We realized that we needed extra help,” she said. Brislain-Bradford said the chamber’s top three goals in this area are: being informed of trends and proposed legislation; “having a voice and stepping forward” for businesses; and implementing any changes that come about.
Blacklock, who lives in Magalia, never planned to retire completely. "I always anticipated that I would be doing something."