Elissa Benson serves as Assistant County Administrative Officer for the County of Santa Cruz. In her role, she assists the County Administrative Officer in all aspects of administration of county government and the support and management of 25 departments, 2400 staff and an annual budget of $1.2 billion across all funds. Elissa’s area of responsibility spans General Government Operations, Climate Change, and Performance Management including Parks & Cultural Services, Information Services, General Service including Fleet & procurement; Agricultural Commissioner/Weights & Measures/Mosquito Vector Control and is CAO liaison to CountyClerk/Elections, Auditor Controller/Treasurer/Tax Collector, and Assessor/Recorder. Within the CAO office she has policy and management oversight for the Office of Response, Recovery, and Resiliency including Climate Change and Emergency Management, Economic Development, Performance Management and Continuous Improvement. She is the Chair of the County’s Capital Projects & Facilities Review Committee. Until 2021, Elissa supported county homeless services policy and service coordination across all county departments in collaboration with other community and government partners.
In early 2018, Elissa and her family relocated to Santa Cruz from Seattle, Washington, after serving in county government there in Martin Luther King Jr. County (King) for 20 years. At King County, Elissa held a variety of senior leadership roles from policy, budget, and strategic planning at the countywide level as well as in multiple county operating department including Department of Transportation, Department of Natural Resources and Parks, and the Division of Facilities Management. She has an extensive background in policy and strategic initiatives, finance, and performance management and strategic planning. Elissa has a Master of Public Policy from the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree from University of California, Berkeley where she studied political economy. She has a long-standing connection to region as her partner and all her siblings attended UC Santa Cruz.