Chief Deputy County Administrator
By Tara Kirkpatrick
One of Jan Lesher’s former employers once remarked that any taxpayer dollars used to pay her salary amounted to money well-spent.
That employer was Janet Napolitano, former Arizona governor and secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Napolitano, whom Lesher once served as chief of staff, is one of many fans of Pima County’s chief deputy administrator.
Here’s another one: Betsy Bolding, longtime consumer affairs director for Tucson Electric Power, a former journalism teacher and once director of former Gov. Bruce Babbitt’s Tucson office.
“From her earliest days – debate team at Tucson High School – to today, Jan Lesher has enhanced her environment, workplace or otherwise, with high-level ideas, innovation, management skills and perfection,” Bolding said. “Always smart, quick and oftentimes with humor, she adds thoughtful quality and excellence to everything she touches.”
Lesher, a native Tucsonan and Tucson Woman of the Year in 2005, is an ardent steward of the region. As chief deputy administrator, she works tirelessly for the state’s second most-populous county – a job with tremendous challenges this past year alone in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I learned that the phrase ‘we don’t do it that way’ can safely be removed from everyone’s vocabulary,” said Lesher. “I’ve always felt that predictability is important and that part of our role as leaders is to provide stability. The challenge was to find ways to continually provide accurate and up-to-date information and to explain how things were changing.”
But even before the pandemic, Lesher has been devoted to bettering the community where she was born and raised. In one of many examples, she helped turn around the Pima Animal Care Center, a county agency once known as “animal control.” It once had a live release rate of 49%. Today, the live release rate is above 90%.
“I knew that this community cared greatly for our pets, yet we were euthanizing animals at a rate that didn’t reflect our standards,” Lesher said. “And that’s what drew my interest.
Staff did our homework and went to the public and the Board of Supervisors, asking for their support and trust as we added significant staff positions, built a new facility and modified standards of care.”
Lesher always has the end goal in mind and values the teachable moments. “Your ability to lead and make good decisions often comes from the lessons learned when, in retrospect, you might have made a bad decision.”