Michelle DeArmond, chief of staff for Riverside County 3rd District Supervisor Chuck Washington, will be leaving his office for a major policy position with the Riverside University Health System (RUHS).
DeArmond has not been a life-long Washington staff person. “My team is very important to me — like family — and Michelle took care of my team better than any of my previous chiefs. She is more than a chief. She is a mentor and a leader and has helped to develop my team,” Washington said in an email to the Town Crier.
Nor has her career been devoted to Riverside County, but after learning about her path, one realizes that DeArmond has always strived to serve the public.
While not a single-subject-matter expert, her career and experience with many issues and the ability to ask probing questions enables her to work well with elected officials and administrators.
Iowa City, Iowa, is where she was born 50 years ago and grew up. Following her high school graduation, she left Iowa to begin her life and career journey.
The first stop was Columbia, Missouri, home of the University of Missouri, where she graduated in three-and-half years from one of the top and most renowned journalism schools in the world.
The Associated Press (AP) offered several jobs. Indianapolis was her choice. Even while beginning a newspaper career, she continued to pursue and earn academic accolades. In her first year, she received a Pulliam Fellowship.
Within a year, AP was DeArmond’s Horace Greely: “Go West, young woman, go West” was its request and she joined its Las Vegas team.
While there, she worked on many stories, including Mike Tyson’s return to the ring and a local sex scandal involving a teacher. The latter was a story that needed to be told and the mother who uncovered it was running up against walls, according to DeArmond.
From there she was enticed to the Los Angeles AP office, where she made contributions to The Press-Enterprise.
Her assignments there included coverage of local politics. One of the local politicians she covered was former Supervisor John Benoit, also a former assemblyman and state senator. In 2010, when his chief of staff unexpectedly died, she took her next and new career step. She spoke to Benoit about the job.
“I don’t know why,” she said. “But as a journalist I knew a little about a lot and I threw my hat in the ring.”
Benoit hired her and she work six years for him. After he died at the end of 2016, she transferred to the county’s Economic Development Agency in the Foreign Trade group.
Then in late 2018, Washington called and offered her his chief of staff position.
“I will always cherish Michelle’s counsel, both her advice and how she would deliver it. She has the ability to give me good counsel and make me feel like it was my great idea all along!” Washington said.
“It’s a wonderful job,” she began. “There’s diversity. No two days are the same. You have the opportunity to help people and effect change.”
The public, however, is a curious and sometimes difficult client. “It’s hard when people don’t always understand government. We have to manage expectations for help, because some believe there is a secret magic word to fix the problem.”
“In my opinion, Michelle is the best chief of staff to have served the residents of Riverside County. She is smart, honest, responsive and dedicated to serving the residents of Riverside County — a true professional,” Washington said.
Being chief of staff is not a lonely nor isolated position. DeArmond said she frequently works with the staff of other supervisors. “We definitely work across the board. We’re all there to consult and collaborate,” she added. “I will miss working with the other chiefs.”
In January, she begins working at RUHSS. It will be an executive strategic policy position in health care. While researching the job, she spoke to Washington about it and her future.
He encouraged her to pursue it. And it allows her to “put her new degree to work.” During the past several years, she also earned her master’s degree in business from the University of Redlands where she graduated in May 2021 with the Gordon C. Atkins Memorial Scholarship Award, in recognition of academic achievement and program participation.
Her future is unknown, but her capability and talent have been demonstrated. In the short term. At RUHS, “I will be part of something really exciting and ground breaking innovative work,” she said proudly.
“She is smart, honest, responsive and dedicated to serving the residents of Riverside County — a true professional. During her time with me, she has built a culture in my office reflecting those qualities,” Washington effused.
“Some county departments have started recruiting my staff thanks to the energy Michelle has invested in developing them. Although it’s sad for me to see my staff leave, I know it’s a good thing for them and the residents of Riverside County,” he added.
Whatever is next for DeArmond, she said, “I really have to think and learn and grow to access opportunities unlike anything I’ve done.”