Barbara Besana named County Employee of the Year for Auburn

She is a Rotarian and enjoys working with teens
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Barbara Besana’s eyes light up and her smile widens as she talks about two weeks in June when she takes a vacation from the Placer County Sheriff’s Department and goes to work for teenagers. Besana, named by District 3 Supervisor Jim Holmes as the Auburn-area County Employee of the Year, trades in a spreadsheet as administrative services manager for the Sheriff’s Department and becomes volunteer camp director for the regional Rotary Youth Leadership Camp. One of several ways Besana is involved in service to her community, the camp brings together more than 180 young high-school students for leadership instruction in a summer-camp setting near Portola. Besana’s Auburn Rotary sponsors three camp attendees from the Auburn area. Besana’s said her own community-minded philosophy and work with the Sheriff’s Department dovetails neatly with the Rotary “service above self” credo. Active with the Auburn Boys & Girls Club since its inception 17 years ago, including a stint as president, Besana said part of her efforts to better the lot of Auburn’s youthful population rests with her own personal loss. April 6 was the ninth anniversary of the death of her son, Gerrit Barnes, in a pedestrian-auto accident on Highway 49. He was only 20. “It’s part of my mission working for the county and youth services,” Besana said. “I can’t make a difference in his life now but I can with others. His passing has taught me to make the most of my life and show you do care, because you don’t want to miss that opportunity.” As well as the leadership-camp involvement, Besana works with Placer High School’s Interact Club, a Rotary-sponsored junior service club. Besana, 55, and her husband, Keven, live in rural Placer County outside Auburn and share a daughter and two sons, as well as five grandchildren. They enjoy traveling and outdoor activities, including fishing and hiking. In selecting Besana for receiving the award at the April 17 State of the Community Dinner in Auburn, Holmes said she’s not only a respected, high-profile, longtime county employee but also a valued community activist. As administrative services manager, Besana is responsible for fiscal and budgetary operations as well as other personnel and administration support. Her duties range from managing contracts and grants to monitoring a budget of more than $100 million. With more than 32 years’ experience in financial administration, she has worked for the county since 1988 – the last 10 with the Sheriff’s Department. Holmes said he sees Besana’s administrative skills as supervisor when she brings complex funding issues before the board. “She’s well-prepared and a good spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department but she’s also one of the people who do a job in a quiet way and end up performing service to the community we don’t see,” Holmes said. Holmes said he’s been particularly impressed with Besana’s involvement with the Auburn Rotary, the Boys & Girls Club board, the Placer County Law Enforcement Chaplaincy’s board, and the youth leadership camp. Besana’s service also goes beyond her job and local community. She’s belongs to several professional organizations, including the Government Finance Officers Association and California State Sheriff’s Association, of which Sheriff Ed Bonner is president this year. Besana is chairwoman for the sheriff’s association’s financial manager’s training committee, putting on annual training for the 58 county sheriff’s financial and executive staff. Her organizational skills have also been a key part of the annual Auburn Rotary barbecue in September at the Gold Country Fairgrounds. The event, which attracts more than 1,000 people, was under her chairmanship for three years. She’s president-nominee of the club and due to take office in 2010. Besana said the high standards of the Sheriff’s Department provide a benchmark for her service in other areas. “It’s a team approach and a positive environment,” she said. “It’s not about whether ‘I do a good job’ but about whether ‘We do a good job.’” The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at