The ability to juggle multiple portfolios to obtain grant funding for vital county services made Esperanza Colio Warren the premier choice for deputy county chief executive officer.
Previously the county community and economic development director, Colio Warren was recently named to the new position by county Chief Executive Officer Tony Rouhotas Jr. No one was immediately named to replace her at community and economic development.
She joins fellow deputy CEOs Joe Picazo Jr. (budget-fiscal) and Andy Horne (renewable energy) when she begins work on Aug. 2.
"This is actually a new position the county created and I'll be focusing on economic development," she said. "I'll examine how to bring in new business. So, let's say a company wants to expand or relocate here. My job is to coordinate as a liaison between the company and county departments this firm needs to deal with: building permitting, planning, public works, workforce development or
air pollution control."
Colio Warren arrives at the job with a wealth of experience working as the community and economic development manager for the previous 14 years. Prior to that she worked for the Imperial Valley Regional Occupation Program. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees from San Diego State University.
Colio Warren has functioned as the county's major grant writer, obtaining more than $40 million she managed and several additional millions disbursed to other county departments.
In an interview she detailed some of her grant writing successes.
Over the last two years her grants helped fund $405,000 for Poe Colonia water and sewer improvements in north Brawley, $495,000 for the Palo Verde water improvements and $1.5 million for a county Fire Department and Sheriff's Office substation in Winterhaven, which received an additional $3.5 million from fire district assessments.
"The county owns the parcel of land at that fire station but they only have a trailer and temporary canopies to park their fire engines beneath," she said. "So we asked why they didn't have a permanent structure and they told us they couldn't afford a facility."
Many of the grant resources originate from community development block grants provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that disburses funds to the California Department of Housing and Community Development.
But these are competitive grants and Colio Warren said she must do a persuasive job of selling Imperial County's primacy.
"So we sought out opportunities to fully fund the county's infrastructure needs," she said.
One of the most recent CDBG awards was for Niland public facilities, specifically $5 million for fire station improvements.
"With that we'll do a very nice building," stressed Colio Warren. "But we added an additional element, a cooling center (for the public) for a 7,590-square-foot structure total."
Some of the selling points she relied upon was the fact that Niland's demographic is distinguished by a high percentage of poverty-level families. Also, there are limited fire or sheriff services nearby and the current facility is deteriorating.
"We experience extreme heat here in the summer with temperatures between 110 and 120 degrees, I told them," Colio Warren emphasized. "Many of our low income are in danger of heat exhaustion. So it's important to provide a cooling facility to those who do not have access to a safe environment during extreme weather."
Colio Warren will interact on a daily basis with CEO Rouhotas, assisting with management of the counties many departments. Each department is well apprised of the challenges they face, she noted, so the goal is a matter of coordinating all the services the departments require, following protocol and monitoring outcomes.
"It's increased responsibility of course," said Colio Warren. "But my focus is bringing money to the county through grants and implement the project so we can provide services to the community. I'm a bit nervous but I really love the job I do, especially when you see all the people in need who are helped."