Beyond the Badge

Fond farewell from Rich Kirkland coworkers, friends

Rich Kirkland warden name plate.
Rich Kirkland's desk displays his warden name plaque.

(Rich Kirkland is retiring after 48 years of state service. Friends and colleagues send well wishes. Read the story about his career.– Editor.)

Rich basically led the building of most of the prisons in the 1990s. He knew everything there was to know about how to build it, how to keep it going and why they fall apart.

Rich is also the adhesive that has helped the receivership work cooperatively with CDCR, other state agencies and stakeholders. State agencies and their partners are very complex, but when these unique organizations work in harmony, really great things are achieved. Rich is often that common link to important things getting done.

His knowledge of CDCR and corrections in general is also just encyclopedic, and he always approaches everything as a problem solver, because he loves to solve problems.

Rich’s contributions are almost incalculable in terms of what we were initially charged with doing — making system-wide changes, as much as possible within the state processes. He has an extraordinary ability to push initiatives and projects forward, which is critical.

He is also always calm, thoughtful and has a tremendous sense of humor, so it was always clear that he enjoyed working in the public service. We had to navigate a lot of obstacles, and he absolutely enjoyed doing it.

He has been extraordinarily valuable, and I wish him all the best!

~ J. Clark Kelso, Receiver, CCHCS

I met Rich when I started with Corrections and he was working on construction. I knew nothing!

They were doing a presentation for the dental program for the Dental Experts. He was great. Fast forward, I am appointed Undersecretary of HC and Rich is my work partner.

He was gracious and welcoming. I am personally sad to see Rich go! He has been a mentor and partner for almost eight years.

He has also mentored countless employees over his 48 years with Corrections and Corrections is better for it.

Working with Rich, he is a great story teller and had many. While he would start some stories with, “I know Diana has heard this before (many times!),” he would go on and tell the story again!

 I never grew tired of this, while I enjoyed teasing him. I hope he has a wonderful retirement with his grandchild and exercising away with his wife.

~ Dr. Diana Toche, Undersecretary, Health Care Services

It has been my pleasure to work with Rich while he’s been with CCHCS.  The reason it’s been a pleasure is that Rich has been accessible, honest, responsive and open to suggestions and critiques.  Even when the subject is unpleasant, Rich was easy to talk to.

Above all, Rich truly cares about the patients he is serving and the important mission of CCHCS.  In other words, Rich embodies everything you could want in a public servant. I’ve enjoyed our relationship over the years, and I wish him well in his well-deserved retirement.

~ Don Specter, Executive Director, Prison Law Office

Throughout the last year or so, I had the pleasure to stand as Acting Chief Deputy Receiver while Rich was working on easing his way out of a full-time work schedule.  During this time, my admiration grew for Rich, as I discussed the multitude of topics that came across his desk and witnessed with what ease he managed each of them.

 Thank you Rich, for creating so many opportunities for our team and for being so passionate about our well-being. I wish you nothing but the very best life has to offer.

~ John Dovey, Special Consultant to the Receiver

We first met Rich Kirkland at Pelican Bay, about 20-25 years ago. He led that institution during a critical time for the implementation of the court-ordered changes in the Madrid case, and did so with intelligence and integrity. This stewardship, along with his business expertise in budget, staffing, construction, and personnel issues, were crucial to his success when he became Chief Deputy Receiver – in particular when planning and overseeing the extremely complicated Health Care Facility Improvement Project, which renovated or built new medical clinics at every prison. Rich really drove this critical aspect of the Plata case and the completed clinics are a lasting legacy to his management.

On a personal level, Rich was unfailingly courteous and kind, even when we disagreed. He answered our many inquiries over the years with diligence and integrity. On behalf of ourselves and our clients, we thank him not just for his work, but for the consistent excellence he brought to everything he did.

~ Sara Norman & Steven Fama, Managing Attorney & Senior Staff Attorney, Prison Law Office

Rich, congratulations on your well-deserved and earned retirement. What an amazing career you’ve had. The things you have seen and the places you have been in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). From the northernmost prison, Pelican Bay—which, if I’m recalling correctly, was your first prison assignment — to the halls of the Executive suite and then to cap it off as the Chief Deputy Receiver. Wow! How did that happen?

From my point of view, it happened because of your concern for people, both staff and prisoners, the community and for the good of the State. Over your long career you took your job seriously but not yourself. You were able to see the best in people and were able to get the best out of the people who worked for you. Your gentle hand in managing, encouraging and at time even correcting was all done with a kindness in your heart.

When you arrived at Pelican Bay, you were not a prison guy, having promoted through the ranks. But you knew the business side of the organization and learned the prison stuff. I’m sure you know more about prison gangs and the “shot callers” than you thought possible. Your ability to learn, organize and manage the custody and classification side of Corrections led to your appointment as warden at Pelican Bay, proving that an excellent manager of people could lead the organization. But that was not the pinnacle of your career, only a stop on your journey.

You soon found yourself back in Sacramento, this time in the Executive suite of CDCR as overseeing the department’s budget and fiscal operations and then with the Receiver. That was possible because of your hard work and encyclopedic knowledge of the budgeting and finance side of state government. Your steady calming hand in managing these overly complex processes calmed the nerves of staff, allowing them to do their job. Your day in and day out demeanor and personal connection with all the staff built an amazing organization.

There is no one thing that stands out to me as having an overarching impact, but a thousand little things that made working with you a joy. The compassion you have for staff, your attention to detail, and easy way you have in leading people all speak volumes of who you are. A leader, who cares about people, who cares about improving the system, who has shown up every day and done their very best for the staff and prisoners of CDCR and for the citizens of California.

Rich, again, congratulations on your retirement and thank you for leading with such a kind heart.

~ Tim Rougeux, Retired, CDCR

Thank you for an amazing 40-plus years with the state of California and devoting more than 30 years of hard work, passion and energy to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Your transformational leadership is unmatched and your tenacity and ability to lead others to see a vision is unparalleled, to say the least! 

I will miss our many collaborations to make great things happen for this agency and wish you the best on this next chapter in your life, as you celebrate your well-deserved retirement!

~ Kathleen Allison, Secretary, CDCR

Rich is one of the most incredible people I have had the opportunity to work with. From the moment we met, we were instant friends. We shared stories of our past, present, and what we both wanted in the future—personally and professionally. Rich always took the time to listen and made me feel like our conversation was all that mattered in the moment—he was always present. While there was plenty of work talk, we had no shortage of story sharing—his days at Pelican Bay, Rosie and her extreme patience, bike rides, family vacations, and more recently, stories of sweet baby Wesley. While our work together ends, our friendship does not. Wishing you a happy and healthy retirement, Rich!

~ Amy Jarvis, Department of Finance

Rich, it was my pleasure to work with you for the better part of 20 years. I am proud to say that I had a small part in the many accomplishments you achieved. Appointing you to be my Chief Deputy Warden at Pelican Bay and then Warden after me was my pleasure. I also held my hand up for you to come work with us at the Receivership and, as it turns out, you outlasted us all! I wish you, Rosie and the boys well with all your future endeavors. Thank you for your service!

~ Joe McGrath, Chief Deputy Secretary, Adult Operations, Retired, CDCR

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