Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear named new SANDAG chair
At the Dec. 4 SANDAG Board of Directors meeting, the board unanimously elected its current vice chair, Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, to chair the regional transportation planning agency, according to a SANDAG news release. Blakespear will begin her new role on Jan. 1 and will serve for two years.
The election for the position of vice chair will be conducted at a future meeting.
“I am humbled by the kind words said today by the board members and the speakers, and I will strive to the best of my ability to live up to expectations,” said Blakespear following the vote. “SANDAG is a vital forum for our local leaders to come together to make regional decisions about where people live, how they travel, and how we sustain the environment now and in the future. Being unanimously chosen by my elected peers to chair this organization is a true honor.”
Blakespear takes the helm at a pivotal time for SANDAG and the region. The Regional Plan will be determined at the end of 2021, and the new extension of the UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley will open about the same time. In 2022, the agency will begin implementing the Regional Plan and will work with regional, state, and federal leaders and advocates on funding challenges.
Blakespear succeeds Poway Mayor Steve Vaus, who has served as SANDAG Chair since December 2018. Vaus’ last meeting as chair will be later this month.
“It has truly been a pleasure working alongside Mayor Blakespear. We have worked through every issue together and I know she will do a terrific job,” said Vaus. “SANDAG is uniquely positioned to address some of the most complex issues facing our region, and it has been an honor to lead the agency for the last two years and to hand the reins over to Mayor Blakespear.”
Blakespear has served as vice chair since 2018, working with Vaus on a number of issues, including the Regional Planning Committee, the Regional Housing Needs Assessment Subcommittee, and the Airport Connectivity Subcommittee.
“Chair Vaus has been wonderful to work with over the last two years. He is a true partner and together, we strove to put what was best for the region ahead of all other concerns,” said Blakespear.
Several members of the SANDAG Board echoed Vaus’s support for Blakespear.
“I appreciate all the work you have done as vice chair. Never been afraid to tackle the tough issues when it came to housing and supporting new initiatives,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “Her bipartisan approach is always appreciated, and I think that is how our region succeeds. I think we will be in good hands in the coming year under Catherine’s leadership.”
Escondido Mayor Paul McNamara, the chair of the board’s nominating committee, put forward Blakespear’s nomination for the chair.
“Every once in a while, you find somebody who is so qualified there really is no other choice. I am pleased to report that the nominating committee feels that way about Mayor Blakespear,” said McNamara. “We are all trying to come to a common purpose … you need a unique person, someone who is committed to the common good and who understands that everyone should have a voice. We have that person in Catherine.”
Several members of the public also expressed support for Blakespear, including Andy Hanshaw, executive director of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition.
“Mayor Blakespear is a leader among leaders in our region,” said Hanshaw. “She works for the good of all cities and residents across the region to improve our quality of life and our future as an economically vibrant and responsibly sustainable community.”
Blakespear has been a member of the SANDAG Board since January 2017 after being elected Encinitas mayor in November 2016. She was re-elected to a third term as mayor last month. In addition to serving on the SANDAG board, Blakespear is a board member of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, the Encina Wastewater Authority, the San Elijo Joint Powers Authority, and the San Dieguito Water District. Blakespear is a fourth-generation resident of Encinitas and an attorney. — SANDAG news release
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