County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato announced today that she has appointed Chief Probation Officer Tanja Heitman as an Assistant County Executive Officer to oversee and coordinate the County’s health and human service and public safety departments.
This is a new, restructured position that combines many of the key duties performed by Assistant County Executive Officer Terri Nisich, who will be retiring in March 2023, and a vacant position once filled by Barney Melekian, who left the County in March 2021 to become the City of Santa Barbara’s interim Police Chief. Heitman will begin her new job at the end of March 2023.
“As the County intensifies a focus on data and outcomes, integration of service for clients and the relationship of our safety net services and our justice system, Chief Heitman is uniquely qualified to take on this new role. She is a proven leader, collaborator and policy expert who can continue the important work already in progress by our departments and advance areas of shared goals,” said County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato.
Heitman has been Santa Barbara County’s Chief Probation Officer since December 2017. She began her career with Santa Barbara County Probation in 1990 as a juvenile institutions officer at the Santa Barbara Juvenile Hall. Heitman has been instrumental in the planning and implementation of realignment and juvenile justice reforms in Santa Barbara County working collaboratively with the Sheriff’s Office, the Court, the Offices of the District Attorney and Public Defender, and local community-based groups.
“I have had the opportunity to oversee many changes within the Probation Department but also have been able to be a part of a growing collaboration with all of the criminal justice partner agencies,” said Tanja Heitman. “Throughout my time as Chief, it was apparent that the success of the criminal justice system was becoming increasingly reliant on the work of other departments such as Behavioral Wellness, Social Services, Public Health and Housing and Community Development. On the horizon are many initiatives such as Cal-Aim and Care Court, that will bring opportunities for Public Safety and Health and Human Services to join forces to ensure we maximize our potential and successfully leverage available funds for the benefit of our community. I look forward to being a part of this synergy between departments while supporting the Board of Supervisors and CEO Miyasato as we promote well-being for our community.”
Miyasato added, “I also want to acknowledge the monumental achievements of Terri Nisich, who has been an Assistant CEO for the past 15 years, and with the County since August 2002. She has been a consummate problem solver, and the force behind much of the County’s successes, big and small, during her tenure. Everyone in our community owes her a great debt of gratitude for her work, which has been largely behind the scenes but critical in keeping the County functioning effectively.”
The Chief Probation Officer is appointed by the Santa Barbara Superior Court. Presiding Judge Pauline Maxwell will begin the process of finding a replacement for Heitman.