County officials sworn in
SAN DIEGO — Two new supervisors along with four other county officials, including the district attorney, were sworn in Monday.
With family members looking on, Supervisors Jim Desmond and Nathan Fletcher, Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk Ernest Dronenburg, Sheriff Bill Gore, Treasurer/Tax Collector Dan McAllister and District Attorney Summer Stephan took an oath to both the U.S. and state constitutions.
Fletcher, who succeeds Ron Roberts, is the second Democrat to serve on the technically nonpartisan Board of Supervisors in roughly three decades. He defeated Republican Bonnie Dumanis in the Nov. 6 election to represent the Fourth District, which includes parts of central and northern San Diego proper from downtown to La Jolla.
Desmond, former Republican mayor of San Marcos, defeated Democrat Michelle Gomez, a legislative analyst. He succeeds Bill Horn in representing north San Diego County, including Carlsbad, Oceanside, Fallbrook and Borrego Springs.
Gore, Stephan, Dronenburg and Dan McAllister all won outright in the June primary, with more than 50 percent of the vote collected by all four incumbents.
After being sworn in, each official gave a short speech.
Fletcher said it’s a tremendous honor to be able to serve the public, and he takes that obligation very seriously. He said change can be difficult and “push us outside of our comfort zone,” but can also mean new insight, benefiting policy and governance.
Whatever differences board members have, “we must always strive to find agreement,” Fletcher said. While principled dissent is OK, Fletcher said he’ll work tirelessly to advance the principles of the county motto: “the noblest motive is the public good.”
“I believe in government as an institution of good, where opportunity is open to all,” Fletcher said. “Today, let’s get to work.”
Desmond said he was “honored and overwhelmed” to join the board and thousands of county employees.
“I feel today like I’ve been given a great gift: the opportunity to make positive changes that will affect the county’s 3 million voters,” Desmond said.
He said he’ll focus on ensuring his district gets the roads, parks and services that resides need, while also concentrating on homelessness, public safety, water access and other infrastructure issues.
Desmond said he will support workforce, affordable and veterans’ housing, but the county must address traffic congestion issues by improving highways.
“Trolleys and (public) transit won’t fix all of our needs in San Diego County,” he said.
Gore said his department has worked to make the county one of the safest in the nation, but joked that he didn’t sound like former President George W. Bush when he declared “mission accomplished” on the Iraq war.
“There is still more work to do, Gore said, adding that the county has lowered the recidivism rate to 33 percent, doubled the number of mental health clinicians in its jails, increased beds, and added psychological training and programs to help inmates once they get out.
He also said the Sheriff’s Department hopes to have a fully accredited mental health care program by 2020 and is planning to build a tunnel connecting the downtown central jail to new courthouse over the next two years.
Gore praised colleagues such as Undersheriff Michael Barnett and Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer for their efforts. He also credited the San Diego Police Department and other law enforcement agencies for their collaboration on serious public safety issues.
Stephan said she is grateful for her team and community “for the mission we’re putting forth, the mission of respect and equal treatment for everybody.”
Stephan mentioned how her life was shaped by her grandmother, who lived through the Armenian genocide early in the 20th century and traveled to America to find a home.
Stephan said her office is going to “push back the (against) bullies” and stand up for the vulnerable, including seniors and school children.
To avoid a “one size fits all” justice system, she and her colleagues created a special position for criminal justice and mental health reform, while also protecting community safety.
Stephan said her office is close to launching program within the coming year that will help young people be better informed about substance abuse and deceptive social media practices.
Dronenburg said his office has re-opened two offices in the county, improved mass-appraisal techniques and shortened the backlog for appraisals, saving the county $5 million.
He said the department has improved both customer and online service, and hired a taxpayers’ rights advocate.
Dronenburg credited his colleagues for the positive changes.
“We are no longer faceless bureaucrats,” Dronenburg said, adding the department has received national and state recognition for the use of technology.
“I’ve been on the ballot 18 times and won 18 elections,” he added. “I want thank the voters — they’re the ones who put me here.”
McAllister said the county expects to collect $6.5 billion in taxes from residents this year. He noted that the county now collects 60 percent of taxes electronically, saving residents an estimated $300,000 in postage.
“We currently assist 210 public agencies in San Diego County, and last fiscal year, we reached a record high of $11.6 billion in our AAA-rated investment pool, making it the second largest pool in the state for the third year in a row,” McAllister said.
He said the county hopes to have a 75 percent electronic collection rate by 2023.
McAllister cited other accomplishments, including an email reminder program for taxpayers, high annual collection rates and education symposiums that have won national acclaim.