Ingrid Fermin, an outspoken steward known for her no-nonsense approach, will be the new executive director of the California Horse Racing Board.
Selected from a field of 17 candidates, Fermin will take over for recently retired Roy Wood Jr., who has moved to Louisiana after a 10-year tenure which officially ends at the end of the year. The CHRB approved Fermin's appointment during a lengthy meeting Dec. 2 at Hollywood Park in Inglewood.
Fermin, 63, became the state's first female steward in 1981, working the southern circuit since 1991. She resides in Del Mar and is married to Buzz Fermin, a veteran horseshoer on the southern circuit. They have three children and four grandchildren.. She'll assume her new post in Sacramento soon after Jan. 1.
Fermin will receive an annual salary of $108,864, plus benefits.
"She has a real passion for the job,'' said CHRB chairman John Harris, who was re-elected to his post at the same meeting. "She has a tremendous amount of experience and a lot of good ideas on how to improve the integrity of racing. We look forward to working with her.''
Fermin, who was not at the meeting, cited "medication issues" as one of her principal concerns in a statement released later.
"I will help ensure a level playing field for everyone," she said. "Some of this involves the same responsibilities as those of a good steward – making sure that sanctions are consistent and that everyone is treated fairly and the same."
Fermin said she will maintain her residence in Del Mar and will travel to the headquarters office in Sacramento and to all of the racing facilities in the state.
"I will begin by spending as much time as necessary at headquarters to get to know the staff, familiarize myself with the office, and plan my next steps," she explained.
"My desire is to bring everyone together. That means visiting and spending time at every track, every breed, every fair. I'm looking forward to increasing the presence of the executive director at all racing locations."
Fermin was one of three finalists for the job interviewed during an executive session on Dec. 1. Also among the final three were John Reagan, the CHRB's senior management auditor and an expert on many complex issues in the sport, and Dan Schiffer, president of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association executive board.
She has a degree in humanities from the University of California at Berkeley and was an educator until she decided to pursue a career in the horseracing industry. She attended the Jockey Club's school for racing officials.
In other business during a 5-1/2-hour meeting, the CHRB approved new two-year licenses for all three companies that provide advance deposit wagering in the state, good through the end of 2006. TVG, XpressBet and YouBet have been accepting computer and phone bets in California since account wagering was legalized almost three years ago.
The approval came over the opposition of pari-mutuel workers. Their union said it was promised jobs at the time of the original approval and feel those positions are long overdue.
TVG, which accounts for 56% of all ADW in California, employs about 175 people in this state, mostly through its main production facility in Los Angeles. But the company still has its wagering hub in Oregon.
"We feel all three ADW companies should have bargaining agreements with our guild,'' said Richard Castro, president of the Pari-Mutuel Employees Guild . "When we gave our support to the original legislation, it was with the understanding that we would have live phone operators taking bets based in California. That has not happened.''
The board urged the guild and the ADW providers to discuss the issue, but did not hold up the licenses.
"When we first (approved ADW), there were a lot of promises about creating labor jobs,'' said Commissioner William Bianco, who was elected vice chairman at the meeting. "We would still like to see that.''
In other business, the board gave the new Bay Meadows Racing Association its first license to conduct a meet, Feb. 2 through May 8, 2005. Starting Jan. 1, the association replaces Magna Entertainment as the operator of the venerable San Mateo track, which has been slated for redevelopment for more than a decade. Magna had leased the track for four years.
The board also approved implementation at Santa Anita of a rule placing on a 10-day veterinarian's list any horse scratched late from a race, with the exception of scratches at the gate. The list will be used on a trial basis at the meet that begins Dec. 26.