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San Diego Board of Supervisors chooses Nathan Fletcher to chair a second year



San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher will serve a second year in the position, following a unanimous vote by the board.

The board also unanimously selected Nora Vargas to serve again as vice-chair and chose Supervisor Lawson-Remer for the position of chair pro tem. Lawson-Remer takes over that role from Supervisor Joel Anderson.

Fletcher, who has served as a supervisor since 2019, took the helm as chair in 2021, leading the county government’s efforts at COVID-19 response, mental health reform and other initiatives.

“I want to thank my colleagues for again selecting me to serve as chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.,” Fletcher said. “It is an honor, it is a privilege and it is a responsibility that I take very very seriously.”

Although the board typically rotates the position annually, some speakers called for reinstating Fletcher, pointing to the COVID-19 crisis as a reason to maintain consistent leadership.

“Supervisor Fletcher has been a voice for working families and has shown real leadership in this pandemic,” said Brigette Browning, executive secretary-treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.

However, some speakers urged the board to select a different chair, noting that reappointing the leader breaks with that board’s tradition. They argued that other districts should have the opportunity for their representatives to serve as chair.

“I would ask that you remove yourself from consideration for reappointment as chair and allow another member to move into this position,” one speaker said.

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“Rotation is customary. Rotation has always been the tradition and rightly so. It enables all districts to enjoy equal representation with their supervisor in that chair’s seat at some point. Your district is urban. It’s only right and fair that other districts with different constituencies and especially with high percentages of the county’s unincorporated area have an equal go with representation in the chair’s seat on a rotating basis.”

Anderson, who represents District 2, including most of East County and the cities of Poway, Santee and El Cajon, said he’s confident Fletcher will serve the interests of constituents in the largely rural, unincorporated area.

“Chair Fletcher has not only been easy to work with, but has been helpful and generous to my district,” said Anderson, . “I hope this leadership continues to show support for my constituents in this new year.”

Anderson had served in the third ranking position of chair pro tem last year, but declined an offer to renew that decision, nominating Lawson-Remer instead.

“Last year, Supervisor Lawson-Remer was nominated to be the Chair Pro Tempore, before she offered me the role,” he said. “Today’s choice to offer it back to her was a simple way for me to reciprocate the kindness that was shown to me.”

Fletcher’s leadership of the board has represented a shift in policy and philosophy for the body.

A Marine Corps veteran who served two combat tours as a counterintelligence specialist, Fletcher started his political career as a California Assemblymember. He was elected to to two terms in 2008 and 2010 and authored legislation including Chelsea’s Law, which increased penalties against child sex offenders and was named in honor of Poway resident Chelsea King, who was murdered in 2010.

Fletcher was an elected as a Republican, but later changed parties to become a Democrat, citing ideological differences with his former party.

He was voted in as supervisor in 2018, serving on a largely conservative board that had favored a more limited approach to county government. Fletcher took over as chair in the second year of the pandemic, spearheading the county’s COVID-19 response while fashioning a more expansive vision for the board.

Although the board of supervisors is officially a nonpartisan office, the party preference and political views of its members shape policy, and Fletcher worked with newly elected Democratic Supervisors Nora Vargas and Terra Lawson-Remer to change county operations.

Fletcher led efforts to integrate services for mental health, substance abuse and homelessness, added crisis stabilization units for mental health emergencies and introduced crisis response teams of social workers and mental health specialists to respond to psychiatric emergencies in lieu of law enforcement.

He pressed to reverse long-standing restrictions on legal cannabis businesses and began planning for expansion of marijuana retail, testing and cultivation in unincorporated county areas. On his watch the county agreed to update its climate action plan after numerous court challenges, and launched an ambitious decarbonization effort to wean the county and its 18 cities off of fossil fuels.

He also presided over the swiftly shifting public health landscape of the pandemic and authorized COVID-19 measures including lockdown periods, business closures, mask requirements and vaccine drives. Those efforts sparked opposition from some residents who resented what they perceived as government overreach, drawing angry comments and sometimes threatening and racist attacks on supervisors and county staff.

In August, Fletcher urged the board to push back against misleading information about theCOVID-19 virus and vaccine with a policy to counter medical misinformation. After a speaker made racist slurs against County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten in November, the board updated its public comment policy to discourage abusive language at county meetings.

Fletcher noted the struggles of governing in a pandemic, saying that the supervisors sworn in last year, “got a trial by fire, and I think everyone has passed that trial and has done incredible work and I think our county government has a lot to be proud of.”

He expressed gratitude to San Diegans who have weathered the COVID-19 crisis and praised their tenacity amid its turmoil.

“I want to thank the people of San Diego County for your trust and your toughness through challenging times,” Fletcher said after Tuesday. “The struggles we have endured together these past few years are significant—pandemic, recession, division. We’ve endured. We’ve carried on. We are moving ahead.”

Read this article on the Union-Tribune website.