When Deputy County Administrative Officer Edgar Nolasco comes into a room, he’s all business. He arrives at work early and leaves late, very late. He says he’s on-call 24/7 because county work is never really done. Nolasco is intense, focused and in pretty darn good shape.
Prior to his day job, Nolasco, 32, is up well before sunrise. That’s because he’s at the gym grappling every morning at 3:30 a.m. For the uninitiated, grappling is a hand-to-hand fighting technique.
Nolasco said he was only 19 when he began training in martial arts, first with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He was a mixed martial arts fighter up until four years ago, but things changed. His arm was broken in a match and it became apparent that the long hours of training and competing didn’t mix with working full time and becoming a father. He continues to train and even competes occasionally.
On one of those rare occasions when he managed to get home before dark, BenitoLink caught up with Nolasco by phone. The interview was punctuated by the high-pitched pulsating sound of his three-year-old son (an aspiring K-9 officer) imitating a police siren while riding a bike with his dad.
Nolasco began working under San Benito County Administrative Officer Ray Espinosa on Jan. 7, though he is no stranger to county government work.
“I started my career 13 years ago with the County of Santa Cruz,” he said. “I was overseeing risk management, workers’ comp, vehicle accidents, DOT [Department of Transportation] and health benefits. I also oversaw costs for the county. My last project was about $380 million.”
His job with San Benito County is similar to his previous position in Santa Cruz County, only with a smaller budget.
As deputy county administrative officer, Nolasco’s duties include human resources risk management, acting as public information officer and overseeing all county operations. When he described the job as being on-call 24/7, he wasn’t exaggerating. He took two calls from CAO Espinosa while riding with his son and being interviewed.
Born and raised in Watsonville, Nolasco said he worked full time while attending college at San Jose State for his bachelor’s degree in business administration, concentrating in human resources management, and a master’s degree in public administration from Golden State University. He decided to come to San Benito County because he felt it was an opportunity to impact a smaller organization and expand his experience, and accepted the $132,000 per year position.
“It was a new challenge and I knew that I would be a good fit,” he said.
He’s also thankful for the reverse commute from what some Hollister residents go through twice a day. “It takes me 30 minutes to get to work, which is amazing. It used to take me up to an hour to get to work before. That was another thing when I was considering this job. I could cut my commute time in half.”
For many years, San Benito County government has found it difficult to retain employees because of its comparatively low salaries. Employees would move to higher paying positions outside the county after gaining a couple years’ experience in San Benito. Nolasco is breaking the mold.
He said he looked forward to facing new challenges, particularly in economic development.
Ultimately, Nolasco said he hoped to become a county administrator or city manager, and wouldn’t mind stepping into CAO Espinosa’s shoes one day, but he’s in no hurry.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I first met Ray,” he said. “He’s great and I really like him. He’s been a great mentor to me and I’ve already learned a lot from him on how San Benito County handles business. People do things a little different here than what I’m used to, but it’s about learning the culture of the organization. It’s learning while under fire. The first day I didn’t eat lunch until 4 p.m. and didn’t go home until 8 p.m. It’s like that every day.”