As each year draws to a close, we find ourselves both looking back and looking forward. Taking stock of what we’ve done while getting ready for a fresh beginning.
We’re feeling that mood of the season more strongly this time around as we move between not just years but eras. The change in our Board of Supervisors that was once on the horizon is now here.
Congratulations and welcome to our two new supervisors: Nathan Fletcher in District Four and Jim Desmond in District Five. Supervisor-elect Fletcher is a former state assemblyman, former Qualcomm executive and university professor; Supervisor-elect Desmond is the long-time mayor of San Marcos and an airline pilot. Both are veterans. They bring to the table a variety of experience with the private and public sector and a passion for building economically strong communities that are healthy and safe.
The transition began immediately following election night and will continue over the next several weeks, culminating in a swearing-in ceremony on January 7, 2019 at the County Administration Center. We look forward to their new ideas and working with them on behalf of the people of San Diego.
As they come on board, I want to take a moment to recognize the achievements of their predecessors: Supervisors Ron Roberts and Bill Horn. Serving about a quarter century each, they leave with a lengthy list of accomplishments. I can’t do justice to their records in this space, but I’m going to rattle off a handful of highlights.
San Pasqual Academy was the first of its kind: a residential school for foster children that offered a safe, stable support system preparing them for adulthood. Supervisor Roberts was a chief proponent of the academy, which has made a positive difference in the lives of hundreds of young people.
Creating conditions for children’s success was also at the heart of Critical Hours, a program championed by Supervisor Roberts that gave at-risk youth a safe, supervised place to be after school. It inspired other local jurisdictions to follow suit and for the state to invest in after-school programs.
Every jewel should have a beautiful setting, and the Waterfront Park is the perfect complement to the iconic County Administration Center. Supervisor Roberts had the vision of transforming parking lots into “San Diego’s front porch,” and with his persistence saw through the creation of this civic treasure.
Supervisor Roberts was a driving force behind putting capital projects at the forefront of our financial planning. As a result, we’ve been able to replace old buildings and add new ones to meet the needs of our workforce and growing population.
As the region stepped up efforts to address homeless and mental health crises, Supervisor Roberts played a major role as co-chair of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. Along with Supervisor Greg Cox he introduced Project One for All to help seriously mentally ill homeless people find permanent housing and, with Supervisor Dianne Jacob, he pushed for the creation of a $25 million trust fund that would make it possible for developers to create more affordable housing and identified county surplus property to jump start the building efforts.
When gang activity was rising in parts of his district, Supervisor Horn helped spearhead formation of the North County Regional Gang Task Force. The coordination of multiple agencies to address the issue contributed to a dramatic drop in the area’s crime rate and became a model for other jurisdictions to emulate.
Recognizing that libraries are essential to a strong community, Supervisor Horn helped bring branches to Valley Center, San Marcos, Vista, 4-S Ranch, and Fallbrook. This weekend, he’ll cap his career with the opening of a new library, park and Sheriff’s office complex in Borrego Springs.
A decorated Marine, Supervisor Horn has sought to expand County services for the region’s huge population of veterans and their families, including those struggling with mental illness and homelessness. He declared 2015 the Year of the Veteran and has hosted an annual Veterans Conference both celebrating and looking at the needs of veterans. Last year’s conference was the first of its kind highlighting women veterans.
As an avocado and citrus rancher, Supervisor Horn knows the challenges of running a farm. He has been a strong supporter of several Board actions aimed at supporting and expanding the local agriculture industry.
Over the years, Supervisors Roberts and Horn and their fellow Board members, have made immense investments in protecting the County against wildfires and other disasters. The creation of the Fire Authority, the addition of helicopters and other equipment, the new tools for communication and public alerts, and much more, have made the San Diego region as prepared and resilient as any in the nation. We have only to see the devastation wildfires have wreaked on California communities the last few weeks to appreciate the efforts devoted to our protection.
Supervisors Roberts and Horn are part of the Board cohort that started in the mid-1990s and initiated a dramatic turnaround at the County. Along with Supervisors Cox and Jacob, they took a government drifting toward bankruptcy, and through tough decisions and discipline, put us on a financial course where balanced budgets are the norm. We maintain prudent reserves and have implemented fiscal policies that ensure the County’s stability throughout economic fluctuations. With the addition of another strong leader, Chairwoman Kristin Gaspar, the County began bridging the path from the past decades’ challenges to the new ones our region faces, thereby ensuring that stability and success will continue well beyond the changing of the guard.
We are forever grateful to Supervisors Roberts and Horn for their dedication and countless contributions. It has been an honor and privilege to be a part of their vision and key member of their team.
Now with the upcoming passing of the baton, we look backward with pride and forward with excitement as we enter a new era of leadership.
As we close out 2018, I want to thank each of you for your continued dedication and hard work. The County is truly blessed to have such an exceptional workforce who continues to amaze our residents with service excellence. Please enjoy the wonder and splendor of the holidays, and be sure to take some personal time to relax and enjoy special moments with your family and friends.
Have a wonderful holiday season.