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Placer's Assistant CEO Holly Heinzen reflects on a 31-year career in service

April 25, 2016

Holly Heinzen headshot

Going into the first day of work as a budget analyst for Placer County, the last thing on her mind coming from Sacramento would be having to deal with a snowstorm in Auburn, especially after her new boss had assured her that any accumulation was unlikely.

However, the circumstances were quite opposite for Placer County’s Chief Assistant Executive Officer Holly Heinzen.

After making it through her first day, wondering if she would even be able to make it up the hill and into the parking lot, Heinzen had found a place where she would spend the duration of her career.

Now 31 years, nearly 30 different board of supervisors members, and thousands of lessons learned later, her retirement this month has come at a time that will allow her to spend an entire summer with her son and daughter. Taking what she calls a “big time-out,” she swears she will not start anything new for six months.

She will however, be getting out in her garden, spending time with family, including her dogs, and visiting her mother in Pacific Grove more frequently. An added bonus is a bit of traveling she foresees in the future.

”I’ve never not worked. Since I was 15, I worked. It boggles my mind, and almost feels like I’m talking about a different person,” Heinzen said.

Recalling the decades spent working for Placer County, some of her most memorable experiences came during times of emergency and during financially challenging times.

As difficult as times like these were, they showed Heinzen how people at all levels pull together and work solidly as a team, even though many times she and her colleagues were thrown into situations that varied widely from normal, day-to-day duties and workflow.  

“It helps staff grow. People have to look at the bigger picture. It’s not just what you see and the input you have, but that everybody has a different lens that they are seeing through. Those perspectives help frame up the best strategies for dealing with the challenges that occur.” 

Holly Heinzen headshot

Among a long list of projects Heinzen had a strong hand in, some of her most noteworthy experiences and accomplishments were working on financing and acquisition of open space and park projects such as Waddle Ranch near Tahoe, and the development and implementation of the capital facilities impact fee.

Getting the fee approved required numerous presentations before the county board of supervisors and city councils and extensive advocacy from the county executive office and board members to persuade cities they needed to address impacts of their development on the county. These fees have supported the county’s ability to construct new facilities such as the South Placer Justice Center, the Rocklin library and the Community Development Resource Agency building. 

She learned over the many years spent working for the county that in addition to the daily progress a single person can make, that many times changes are implemented and need to occur over a longer period of time. As financial conditions and issues fluctuate, along with the workload, “It’s not the short view you need to focus on, it’s the landscape view,” she said.

Having seen Placer’s population grow from less than 100,000 to nearly 400,000 people, she encountered many changes within the workplace that would now be considered normalcies.

Implementing formal policies for behavior and employee protection laws, the growth of internal infrastructure and staff and eliminating the ability to smoke at one’s desk are just a few of the many changes Heinzen has seen and experienced, that, while challenging at the time, helped the advancement of Placer County.

“Holly’s positive influence can be seen in all aspects of the county, whether it’s through the relationships she formed with the cities and our myriad partners, her support of the board and its policy priorities, her cheerful demeanor in her daily interactions with staff, or her unhesitating nature to take on complex assignments and responsibilities,” said Placer County Executive Officer David Boesch. “Placer County is what it is and where it is in large part because of what Holly has done.”

In addition to the copious amount of interesting issues Heinzen dealt with on a daily basis, her fellow compatriots are what she will miss the most about leaving Placer County, she said.

While always learning something new from staff members, CEOs and board members who have been a big influence throughout her career, Holly’s biggest influencer was her father, whose greatest piece of advice guided how she lived and worked.

“He’d say, you do work that you love, and it’s not work. And he worked a hard, long career. I have been fortunate to do work for Placer County that I enjoy. And, I’ve worked hard and it’s never been just a job,” she said.

Heinzen made her time working for Placer County a career that she loved. Having participated in many issues that have helped shape the way the county is today and having been actively involved with so many different colleagues over three decades, she will be truly missed.

“It has been an incredible privilege and personal joy to work with Holly over the past 20 years,” said Robert Weygandt, Chairman of the Placer County Board of Supervisors. “She is incredibly bright, always professional and contagiously upbeat. Our very strong financial condition is a huge reflection of her analytical skill, discipline and strategic thinking. She has been perfectly solid during great times as well as challenging moments. She has been a great public servant and is leaving Placer in very solid shape. I will miss working with her.”

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