After only 20 months as the Orange County Sheriff's Department Harbormaster, Lt. Mark Long is being promoted to captain and leaving harbor patrol operations.
Long's last day as Harbormaster is Feb. 24. The next day he'll start his job as captain of the sheriff department's Strategy, Accountability, Focus, Evaluation unit overseeing department policy, contract negotiations, risk management and worker compensation issues.
Looking back, Long said Friday in an interview with the Pilot, working with the public was the easiest part of the Harbormaster's duties.
"My biggest challenge was mitigating the uncertainty of our future while attempting to make service improvements and change long standing practices," Long said.
Long saw the department through a performance audit review, a nine-month effort by Newport Beach to seek cheaper management of moorings that the community ultimately rebuffed, and another look by county leaders at who should pay for the Harbor Patrol.
In the meantime, the Harbor Patrol conducted three multi-agency emergency drills and received more than $1 million in Department of Homeland Security grants.
For the last 30 or so years, how the Harbor Patrol is funded has been a point of contention for Orange County supervisors and Sheriff's Department officials. That didn't change under Long, and it likely won't under his successor. Long said one thing the next Harbormaster can do to address funding issues is a kind of top-to-bottom evaluation of the place.
"Call it spring cleaning but I always find it beneficial to review what we do to see if we can make improvements, do away with unnecessary practices or reaffirm the benefits of policies currently in place," Long said.
Large agencies like the sheriff's department sometimes fall into a "we do it this way because we've always done it this way," mentality, he said. In his time, Long approved mooring renters to pay with credit cards and transient mooring renters to rent for a solid 15-day block without having to renew every five days.
The next Harbormaster should probably implement what remains of the performance auditors recommendations and continually review where things can be improved.
"If we listen to our constituency, provide a quality and valued service in a fair and professional manner, we will develop a strong relationship with all our stakeholders," Long said.