County names new ag commissioner
Plumas County’s new agricultural commissioner and sealer of weights and measures, Tim Gibson, displays the weights he uses to measure the accuracy of retail scales in Plumas and Sierra counties. Gibson was one of four applicants for the position and officially took over the job Jan. 8. Photo by Debra Moore
Gibson plans to work in the field
Plumas County’s new agriculture chief doesn’t want to spend too much time behind his desk. The veteran inspector plans to be out in the field.
“I intend to be out there as much as possible,” said Tim Gibson during an interview in his new office Jan. 3.
Gibson has been working as the county inspector since 2001 and filled in as the interim ag commissioner before the county hired Keith Mahan in November 2008. Gibson wasn’t qualified to hold the top position at that time because he didn’t have the necessary certifications.
The process to become the agriculture commissioner and sealer of weights and measures is a long one. A candidate must have a four-year degree in biology or agriculture sciences, take written and oral exams to become a deputy commissioner and deputy sealer, amass experience in both roles and then take more exams to receive the full certifications.
“It took 11 years from the start of the process,” Gibson said.
Gibson will now run the office that is housed at the fairgrounds in Quincy, with responsibility for both Plumas and Sierra counties. He will oversee an administrative assistant, Melissa Nisbet, and a technician, Andrea Oilar, whom he hopes will replace him as inspector.
In contrast, Gibson said that his Los Angeles County counterpart would oversee “an army of people” including hundreds of inspectors and supervisors.
Gibson and his inspector (he doesn’t anticipate filling the technician job at this time) will be responsible for all of Plumas and Sierra counties.
The job is twofold: agriculture commissioner and sealer of weights and measures.
As ag commissioner, Gibson is responsible for enforcing all regulations that pertain to agriculture, which include noxious weed control, pesticide regulation, and inspections.
With regard to the latter, Gibson responds to calls from the border station at Hallelujah Junction to inspect “plant material that is brought into the area.” He also inspects nurseries and other businesses that deal with plants.
As part of his job, Gibson sets gypsy moth traps because he said the concern is with “anything that would affect timber.”
A good part of that position pertains to noxious weed control and the battle to rid the area of non-native, invasive plants.
In his other role, Gibson is responsible for “anything that counts, weighs or measures in commerce.” He cited gas pumps and supermarket scales as two items that need to be inspected annually.
“In the cases of weights there is a tolerance,” Gibson said. “If it’s in the consumer’s favor, I give them a month to fix it. If it’s against the consumer, I red-tag the device.”
For small scales, Gibson carries a black, well-worn case that contains an assortment of weights that have been approved by the state as accurate.
He also has tiny weights to measure jewelry, so precise that gloves must be worn to handle them, so that not even the weight of a fingerprint can interfere with the inspection.
On the other end of the spectrum, the department has a 25,000-pound truck that comes equipped with a crane to add even more weight to inspect truck scales.
Thousand-pound weights are used on cattle scales.
To inspect gas stations, Gibson uses a five-gallon can to measure whether the pumps are dispensing the proper amount of fuel. He also checks for signage around the pumps to ensure that it is not confusing and clearly informs consumers of what they are paying.
In retail outlets, Gibson is responsible for ensuring that scanners are correct. “What scans must be accurate to the price on the shelf,” he said.
When asked how he is received as an inspector, Gibson said that he “has good working relationships.”
That could be in part because Gibson said that he “rarely issues administrative fines” except in the case of pesticide violations where there is “no wiggle room because it is mandated by the state.”
Gibson’s goal is to “inspect every device each year,” though he realizes that may be difficult to accomplish.
Gibson said that in urban counties, the focus is on the weights and measures aspect of the job, but in rural areas, such as Plumas and Sierra counties, agriculture comes first.
And Gibson doesn’t see that changing.
“As the county declines in population, the trend will stay the same. The focus will be on agriculture,” he said.