SAN DIEGO (CNS) — The county Board of Supervisors is "absolutely and unequivocally committed" to a government that residents know represents and cares for them, its new chairman said 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.
Supervisors voted unanimously for Fletcher to serve as their chairman. Along with Fletcher, Nora Vargas will serve as board vice chairwoman and Joel Anderson as chair pro tem.
Fletcher gave his speech in the board's chambers inside the county Administration Building, located in downtown San Diego -- however, the rest of the board participated via teleconference, which it has been doing since the COVID-19 pandemic began last spring.
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," he added.
The county shouldn't 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," he added. "We aren't looking to the past," Fletcher said. "We*re looking to a brighter future. This is an exciting time for our county. Now, let's get to work."
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 are officially non-partisan.
Fletcher said that county leaders must "be prepared to accept hard facts and uncomfortable truths -- but all while never losing site of what we're fighting for." The county should be prepared for policy setbacks, and "at times we will make mistakes, and when we make a mistake we will admit, correct course and carry on," Fletcher said.
"We don't look away from the most pressing needs of our community," he added. "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 and other regional cities, "starting a new relationship tied by geography and united in purpose," Fletcher added.
Fletcher said that after a very long 2020, he feels 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."
Both men have disagreed over how the county should handle restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
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."