The San Diego County Board of Supervisors is "absolutely and unequivocally committed" to a government that residents know represents and cares for them, its new chairman said on Tuesday.
Nathan Fletcher said the county must now tackle climate change and a global COVID-19 pandemic, improve racial justice, build more affordable housing, provide quality physical and behavioral health care, provide more economic opportunity and ensure transparent government.
Along with Fletcher, Nora Vargas will service as board vice chairwoman and Joel Anderson as chair pro tem.
Fletcher, a Democrat first elected in 2018 to represent District 4, described his new role as a tremendous honor."
"I will work tirelessly for a county with more opportunity, more fairness, more equity and more justice," Fletcher said, adding later that the county should just be a place where people `"don't just say 'Black lives matter, and immigrants are appreciated,' but a county that backs that up with intentional policies," Fletcher said.
For many decades, county voters wanted a more conservative board, consistent with their values, Fletcher said, "but times change, and now the voters have elected a new group of more progressive supervisors we will govern more consistent with our values."
In November, voters chose two other progressive candidates, Vargas for District 1 and Terra Lawson-Remer for District 3. The newly elected Anderson represents District 2, and along with District 5's Jim Desmond, is considered a more conservative voice. The board seats, however, are officially nonpartisan.
Fletcher said county leaders must "be prepared to accept hard facts and uncomfortable truths -- but all while never losing sight of what we're fighting for.''
"We don't look away from the most pressing needs of our community," Fletcher said. "The Marines taught me that you're never out of the fight -- but you get up, and you get back in the fight."
Fletcher said that on Jan. 12, the board will vote on foundational policies, including those focusing on racial justice issues and economic justice.
Fundamental county operations will also need to change in terms of financial transparency, Fletcher said.
Along with Gov. Gavin Newsom, the county looks forward to working with San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, "starting a new relationship tied by geography and united in purpose," Fletcher added.
Fletcher said that after a very long 2020, he felt revitalized by the presence of new board members and praised all three. He said Vargas "will hold our county government accountable and never forget who or why you chose to serve" --"you've made history, and I'm confident you will continue to do so," Fletcher added.
Fletcher lauded Lawson-Remer for her professional background, "global perspective, national experience and impeccable values. I can't wait to see you get to work."
While serving in the state Legislature with Anderson, Fletcher said, he saw someone who held true to his convictions but was willing to find common ground with those across the aisle.
"I know you care deeply for the residents of your district," Fletcher added.
When mentioning Desmond, Fletcher said, "Well, let's not get carried away here. Let's just see how it goes with you." The pair have disagreed over how the county should handle restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Desmond said he was "disappointed in the less-than-equitable committee appointments." Out of 65 appointments, board Chairman Nathan Fletcher proposed that "I fill only seven," Desmond said.
According to an updated list sent by the county Communications Office, Desmond has been appointed to 13 committees, either as a full member or alternate.
The next lowest number of committee assignments was 13 with the highest being 21, Desmond said.
In a statement released after Tuesday's meeting, Desmond said there is "an opportunity, with a new board, to build a team and move forward as a board."
"This is an exciting time and unprecedented for decades," Desmond added. "I look forward to working with all of my colleagues. My focus will be the same as it's been for the first two years in office: streets, roads, infrastructure and safety."
Supervisors serve on dozens of state and regional committees and commissions, including the San Diego Association of Governments, National Association of Counties and Indian Gaming Local Benefit Committee.