National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems

The Voice for Public Pensions


Public Pension Profiles: Merced County Employees' Retirement Association (MercedCERA) Retirement Plan Administrator, Kristen Santos

If you are an adaptive office with adaptive staff and can be an adaptive leader, you will prevail!" says Santos. 
NCPERS Public Pension Profiles MercedCERA

By Lizzy Lees, NCPERS

As part of an ongoing series of public pension executive profiles, NCPERS spoke with Kristen Santos, Retirement Plan Administrator for the Merced County Employees' Retirement Association (MercedCERA).

Please note: This interview has been edited for clarity. If you would like to participate in a public pension profile interview, please contact

Who does the Merced County Employees' Retirement Association (MercedCERA) serve?

We serve 6,000 active deferred and retired members at MercedCERA. The County of Merced is our biggest employer, however we serve the Superior Courts of Merced County and the Merced Cemetery District.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I enjoy so many things – I am currently implementing a lot of change for the system and that is what I enjoy most; leading through change. 

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted operations across industries, in many cases in a permanent way (such as remote work, an increase in digital communications, etc.). Were there any positive lessons learned or operational changes implemented since 2020?

During the pandemic, we cycled staff in/out of the office on any given day to prevent from functional areas being wiped out if people got sick. It worked very well for us. 

If you are an adaptive office with adaptive staff and can be an adaptive leader, you will prevail! Me and my staff were very productive and didn't skip a beat. 

As a faculty advisor for the 2023 Chief Officers Summit, why should other public pension fund executives attend this year?  

I think touching on leading through change would be helpful for some leaders. I received, over my career, some very good training and coaching on change (at my tenure with CalPERS), and I relied on every single bit of that training during the pandemic. I also believe that a refresher for some on managing their Board and some communication training (how to stay on message) may be helpful for some. 


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