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Merced County CEO plans to retire

For the second time in a year, Merced County CEO Dee Tatum has announced plans to retire.

Tatum, 62, has served as the county's top administrator since 2001. He said Tuesday that he'll leave the post at the end of this year.

Tatum made the same announcement in December 2007, then decided six months later to stay on as CEO at the request of the Board of Supervisors. Board members argued it was a bad time for Tatum to go and that they needed his expertise to help shepherd the county through what's expected to be a difficult year, especially because the economic recession. The board approved a 5 percent pay raise for Tatum in exchange for his decision to stay.

Tatum submitted a letter to the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 17 indicating his new plans to retire at the end of 2009, board chair Deidre Kelsey said after the supervisors' regular meeting Tuesday morning.

"He's requesting once again to retire at the end of this year," Kelsey said. "I'd like to say thank you to Mr. Tatum for the time he's spent with us, especially this last year and the next year ahead."

Since Tatum agreed in July to stay on as the county's CEO, he has faced some calls for his resignation.

In November the Sun-Star reported that the Board of Supervisors approved a 10 percent raise for Tatum's wife, a manager at the county's mental health department, though the supervisors apparently didn't know they'd done so.

The pay hike was buried so deeply as part of a budget amendment that none of the supervisors were aware of it, they each have said. The raise was later rescinded.

Tatum has said he had nothing to do with the proposal, though it originated in his office. A few local residents have since come to public meetings to call for Tatum's resignation.

On Tuesday, Tatum suggested the board begin identifying candidates to succeed him as soon as possible and that it conduct interviews by June to allow some overlap between the new CEO and Tatum.

Tatum has worked for Merced County for 12 years. As CEO he oversees all county departments and is responsible for implementing policies set by the Board of Supervisors. He also is charged with the day-to-day management of the county's budget.

He earns about $230,000 a year.

Under a county policy that rewards its highest-level managers for providing at least a one-year notice of plans to resign or retire, Tatum is eligible for a roughly $11,000 bonus, or 5 percent of his annual base salary. He won't accept the bonus, a county spokeswoman, Katie Albertson, said.

Tatum began his public service career when he joined the military in 1972. Serving in both the Air Force and Air Force Reserve, he retired from the military in 2002 at the rank of colonel.

He began working for the county in 1996 as director of its mental health department. He previously worked for Fresno County's mental health department. In 1998 he was promoted to the position of assistant county administrator. He took over as CEO three years later.

Tatum is the fourth CEO to serve the county in the last 50 years.