Released by: Sonoma County Animal Services
For Immediate Release

Sonoma County Announces Animal Services Director Hire

John P. Skeel Brings Over 27 Years of Management Experience to SCAS

Santa Rosa, CA  –  July 21, 2015  –  After a national search and community input process, Sonoma County Department of Health Services (DHS) hired John P. Skeel as Director of Sonoma County Animal Services (SCAS). Director Skeel brings 27 years of public, private and nonprofit management and leadership skills to the position along with a committed record of progressive leadership and community engagement. Director Skeel starts on July 21.

"We've been meeting and listening to the community and partners as we defined our recruitment process," said Rita Scardaci, DHS Director. "John's proven record in public service and in building strong partnerships and taking a community-wide approach were key in our decision to offer him this leadership position."

With experience in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, Skeel has managed diverse staffs and large municipal budgets in California, Michigan and Colorado. Previously, Skeel was the District Manager for Tahoe Resource Conservation District, the General Manager for El Dorado Hills Community Services District and Community Services Division Manager for the City of San Ramon. Skeel also was the Executive Director for the Evergreen Parks & Recreation District (Colorado).

John will be joining a new management team at SCAS. Brian Whipple, who has served as interim Director of SCAS since September 2014, will assume the position of Operations Manager and will oversee day-to-day operations of all field, shelter and administration functions. Whipple brings over 20 years of animal care experience to this new position. Whipple is also a former Supervising Animal Control Officer for SCAS. James Dress, former Director of Behavior and Training of the East Bay SCPA, has been hired as the new Community Engagement Manager. Dress will lead the SCAS volunteer program and promote greater collaboration with SCAS community partners. Dress previously worked for the East Bay SPCA as the Director of Behavior and Training and managed the San Francisco SPCA's dog training program. Dress was also an instructor for 16 years with Canine Companions for Independence. Both Whipple and Dress bring decades of animal care service experience to their new positions. 

"The Board of Supervisors is excited with John's selection as the new Director of Animal Services, and the agency's new management structure reflects the County's commitment to best practices, accountability, and community engagement," said Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Susan Gorin.

"John's record of leadership and community service will help continue the significant progress we have seen at Animal Services in recent years," said Efren Carrillo, Sonoma County Supervisor, District 5. Supervisor Carrillo is the Board's liaison for DHS.

Skeel's appointment as Director of SCAS comes at the end of a comprehensive process that included a stakeholder survey to identify key attributes of the next Director, and a public presentation where each candidate was asked to make a public presentation in front of County and animal welfare stakeholders.

"I actively participated in the process by asking questions and evaluating his responses. The audience was engaged and asked relevant and current questions that helped us really understand how Skeel would manage and respond to community concerns," stated Rhonda McKinnon, Technical Services Division Manager, City of Santa Rosa Police Department. McKinnon was the Acting Assistant City Manager for Santa Rosa during her service on the community selection panel for Skeel's appointment.

"I am excited to hit the ground running as the next Director of SCAS. I will work closely with our dedicated animal welfare community in Sonoma County. There are a lot of partnerships we can continue to strengthen. My experience in public service and building long-term relationships with community members can be an asset here," Skeel said.

Director Skeel will be leading a series of community meetings and outreach opportunities over the next few months to meet the community and learn about local needs and expectations. Meeting times and locations will be announced next month.

Sonoma County Animal Services (SCAS) provides field and animal licensing services for the Town of Windsor, City of Santa Rosa and unincorporated areas within Sonoma County. Additionally, SCAS operates a public animal shelter that takes in nearly 3,000 animals annually, primarily dogs and cats, and works to reduce pet overpopulation through spay and neuter services. SCAS is also responsible for rabies control and bite investigation for the entire county. 

For more detailed information about SCAS please visit


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