Tina Rivera selected as Sonoma County’s new health services director

Tina Rivera, Sonoma County’s top acting health and homelessness services administrator, is set to be named director of the county’s Department of Health Services.

Rivera, who has held the job on an interim basis for the past nine months, has a quarter century of experience in government and nonprofit work within health care and social services.

She joined the county health department in January 2020 as assistant director and stepped in to lead it in May 2021, when Barbie Robinson left to become public health director for Houston-based Harris County, Texas.

The county conducted a nationwide search for Robinson’s replacement and selected Rivera, citing her deep experience and expertise on local health care and social service administration.

“Tina has repeatedly forged creative, collaborative and cost-effective solutions to difficult problems, making real differences in the lives of real people,” said James Gore, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “She is not just a sharp financial administrator, but she brings optimism and heart to even the most intractable situations. We are lucky to have her lead the Department of Health Services.”

Rivera has been one of the county’s top pandemic leaders, overseeing a department with responsibilities ranging from coronavirus testing to vaccine rollout and provision of emergency shelter and quarantine spaces.

The department has more than 580 employees across four divisions and a budget of $330 million.

She has also led the county’s Community Development Commission, the chief housing and homeless services agency, responsible for funding permanent supportive housing, short- and long-term homeless shelters and residential treatment programs.

During her tenure there, the county has cleared one of its largest-ever homeless camps— on the Joe Rodota Trail in Santa Rosa — while setting up a semi-permanent tiny-home village for homeless people on the Los Guilicos campus east of Oakmont. The county also purchased two hotels, in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, to serve as housing for at-risk homeless people.

Rivera, in a county statement, said she would prioritize delivering public health and mental health services equitably, targeting people with the greatest needs, and addressing underlying disparities in the community.

“It is important to provide a space for conversations about racism and other systemic issues that impact the health of our community. These are difficult conversations to have, but essential,” Rivera said.

From 2018 to 2020, she served as a top administrator in the county’s Department of Human Services, its largest single agency.

A native Louisiana, she previously served as northwest region chief financial officer and administrative services director for the State of Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. She also served as federal grants administrator for the City of Shreveport, Louisiana, and executive director at Compassion Center, a Shreveport nonprofit.

She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Northwestern State University and studied finance at Louisiana State University.

Her salary as director will be set at $240,312 annually.

This developing story will be updated.