First 5 Fresno County names Emelia Reyes co-executive director

The Fresno BeeJune 18, 2014 

First 5 Fresno County held a board meeting on Wednesday and everyone played nice.

The governing commission of the agency dedicated to helping the very young finished a three-hour meeting by naming chief business officer Emelia Reyes as co-executive director.

Reyes will share power with Kendra Rogers, whose resignation is effective July 11. Reyes will stay as interim executive director when Rogers leaves and the commission continues its search for a permanent top boss.

"You will both maintain the same level of authority," commission chairman Henry R. Perea said to Reyes and Rogers. "You'll figure it out."

Rogers said First 5 with Reyes at the helm will be "in very good hands."

Reyes declined to comment other than to thank the commissioners and note that "it's been a long two days."

Months of bickering preceded Wednesday's action.

On one side was a bloc -- sometimes the majority, sometimes not -- on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. These supervisors didn't like First 5's strategic direction. The government agency is largely independent, but the makeup of its commission belongs to the supervisors.

On the other side were Rogers -- a 14-year First 5 veteran, the last five as executive director -- and allies who thought the agency was on the verge of greatness.

It all imploded Tuesday during and after the supervisors' meeting. The board voted to shrink the commission from nine to seven members. Commissioner qualifications are likely headed for a tweaking.

Rogers' friends fumed. Rogers after the meeting released text messages to The Bee that, she said, revealed a Perea grudge against her and the agency.

Perea from the dais touted the need for agency reform.

Key players apparently benefited from a 24-hour time-out.

The commissioners discussed First 5's seven-year strategic plan, heard a report about efforts to raise public awareness of breast-feeding's benefits and approved a revised two-year budget.

Collaboration with other family-focused agencies was pushed.

First 5 is funded by California's tobacco tax and has a budget this year of about $11 million.

There were two points of drama.

Rogers, in her final executive director's report, spoke warmly of her First 5 colleagues. Her voice breaking from emotion, she expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to help Fresno County's vulnerable youth.

"I know you'll do great work and continue to advocate for the children," Rogers said.

The commissioners, including Perea, took turns thanking Rogers. The commission and audience gave her a standing ovation.

Then the commissioners departed to a nearby room for a closed-session meeting. They emerged to announce Reyes' promotion.

The commission's next scheduled meeting is in August. Perea closed things by asking for a July meeting, at a date to be determined.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6272 or ghostetter@fresnobee.com. Read his City Beat blog at fresnobee.com/city-beat.

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