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

Nathan Fletcher, chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, spoke at the City Heights Recreation Center on Jan. 3.
Nathan Fletcher, chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, spoke at the City Heights Recreation Center on Jan. 3. He was reelected chairman of the supervisors Tuesday morning.
(Ariana Drehsler/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The board broke with custom of rotating the chair position, some approved during pandemic

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 Terra 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, becoming the county’s point person for COVID-19 response, mental health reform and other government 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.”

The chair typically presides over board of supervisor meetings, delivers the annual State of the County address, appoints supervisors to committees and places items on the board’s agenda.

Although the position typically rotates annually, some speakers called for reinstating Fletcher, saying the COVID crisis necessitates 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 not to break with tradition and to select a different chair, arguing that other districts should get 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 woman said.

” 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 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.

A Marine Corps veteran who served two combat tours as a counterintelligence specialist, Fletcher started his political career in the California Assembly, where he was elected to two terms in 2008 and 2010. Among the legislation he authored was Chelsea’s Law, which toughened penalties against child sex offenders and was named for Poway resident Chelsea King, who was murdered in 2010.

Fletcher was a Republican but changed parties during a failed attempt to run for mayor. He cited ideological differences with his former party as his reason for becoming a Democrat.

In 2018 District 4 voted him onto a largely conservative board of supervisors that favored a more limited approach to governing. . Fletcher took over as chair in January 2021, spearheading the county’s COVID response while fashioning a more expansive vision for the board.

Fletcher worked with newly elected Democratic Supervisors Nora Vargas and Terra Lawson-Remer to change county operations, including efforts to integrate and improve services for mental health, substance abuse and homelessness. He added crisis stabilization units and crisis response teams of social workers and mental health specialists for psychiatric emergencies.

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 and announced an ambitious decarbonization effort.

His endorsement of COVID lockdowns, , mask requirements and vaccine drives have sparked widespread approval and opposition from some residents, including sometimes threatening and racist attacks on supervisors and county staff.

In August, Fletcher urged the board to push back against misleading information about the COVID-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 during a pandemic, calling it a “trial by fire” everyone has passed.

“The struggles we have endured together these past few years are significant—pandemic, recession, division,” he said. “We’ve endured. We’ve carried on. We are moving ahead.”


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