State workers sometimes get a bad rap, often portrayed as paper-shuffling part-timers who get paid too much, do too little and have more time off in a year than you see in five. True, their benefits are enviable, and their salaries—a matter of public record—are good. Yet for all we assume about state workers, do we really know all that much about what they do? Meet five locals who shatter the stereotypes, working hard for their state-issued paychecks by providing crucial services in jobs as varied as the California landscape.
Correctional Lieutenant, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
With the state: almost 22 years
Job description: As a public information officer, Loer keeps the public apprised about what goes on inside California State Prison-Sacramento, the maximum-security prison in Folsom. Loer oversees one of three facilities inside the prison, and the 1,000 inmates and 70 to 90 correctional workers within it. “I ensure that the institution is secure, the public is safe, the community is safe, and that the inmates and staff are cared for,” she says.
“When my career is over, I can honestly say that I provided a vital service to the community. I have a deeper understanding of the human race—all the trials they have to go through. You just understand people better. It’s a very dangerous job, with little reward.”
District Administrator, Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control
With the state: 15 years
Job description: Ajax is a state peace officer who grants alcoholic beverage licenses to businesses and ensures that they follow the law. She oversees licensing and enforcement for 11 counties in and around Sacramento.
“Whenever you tell people you work for ABC, they think you are working for a TV station and not the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Most people don’t realize we are dealing with licensing and enforcement, but we are also working with local law enforcement. We do things that affect the community and public welfare with alcohol-related problems that come up within a community.”
Supervising Park Ranger, California State Parks
With the state: 6 years
Job description: As a peace officer, Guardino patrols the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area. “In the summer, our weekends are our busiest,” he says. “We are sometimes patrolling 10 hours a day on bicycle, boat, Jet Ski, foot or motorcycle.” Guardino also hosts field trips and hikes for area schoolchildren.
“My hobbies are hiking and biking, and I actually get to come to work and do both of those and get paid for it. We get a diverse group of park visitors that come out here, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great job to fulfill a sense of adventure.”
Deputy Director, California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services
With the state: 2 ½ years
Job description: During disasters, Huston is responsible for getting information and instructions out to the public. “There is not a moment I am not clutching a BlackBerry, reading a message or responding to an emergency event,” says Huston, who is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“I am a huge animal lover and during disasters, I make it a point to visit the animal shelters. When families are forced to make a decision to evacuate and leave their animals behind, that is a really tough thing to see. That’s why I am a big advocate that there are accommodations made for animals at shelters just as there are for humans.”
Librarian, California State Library
With the state: 2 ½ years
Job description: Roche provides reference and research services for the governor’s office, the Legislature and some state agencies.
“The questions we get are [of] such great variety, some of the topics are inherently interesting, and I learn something new every day about government, some social issues, perhaps, how the Legislature functions, and about history.”