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Ceremonial swearing in ceremony held at County Administration Center

Angela Carone
/
KPBS
The San Diego County Administration building in downtown San Diego. Sep. 25, 2013.

San Diego County Supervisors Jim Desmond and Nathan Fletcher and four other elected officials — including Sheriff Kelly Martinez and District Attorney Summer Stephan — were ceremonially sworn in Monday.

Also taking the oath were Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk Jordan Marks and Treasurer/Tax Collector Dan McAllister. The roughly hourlong ceremony was held at the County Administration Center, in front a full audience, and was also streamed virtually.

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Fletcher, who won a decisive victory for his second term on the Board of Supervisors, served as board chair for the past two years. Instead of seeking a third term in that post, he has thrown his support behind Supervisor Nora Vargas to take over the role.

"In four years, and despite the difficult circumstances brought on by a global pandemic, we fundamentally changed the way San Diego County supports our community," he said earlier.

"We have made tremendous progress, but there is more to be done. Many of the policies and programs we introduced during my first term have recently launched or are about to launch."

Fletcher has said he is considering a run for state Senate.

The terms of office formally began on Jan. 2 at noon. Each official was administered the oath of office prior to the start of their respective terms. Each official gave a short speech after taking the oath during Monday's event.

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Fletcher took the oath from his Marine drill sergeant, while his wife — labor leader Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher — stood by his side.

Fletcher said it's important to see how the county has grown, with more compassion and a Framework for the Future, a series of policies "that will guide this county for decades to come."

Fletcher touted the county's progress on behavioral health treatment, improved juvenile justice and foster care system and efforts to tackle the climate crisis. "We must ensure we continue down this path of creating a more perfect union," Fletcher said, adding that civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. once said "that we need one another."

Desmond, the District 5 supervisor who also won by a sizable margin last year, was sworn in by Bo Mazzetti, chairman of the Rincon Band of Luseno Indians, as Desmond's wife Kerri looked on.

"I feel like I won an Oscar or something," Desmond said. "There's a lot of people I wanna thank."

Among those he thanked was his wife, whom he praised for her support over the years.

"I enjoy this job, but it requires a lot of time away from home," Desmond said.

The board has "accomplished a lot," Desmond said, adding that even when he disagrees with fellow supervisors, he appreciates being able to do so in a civil manner.

Along with better treatment for those with mental health issues or those suffering domestic abuse, Desmond said other accomplishments include preventing the placement of sexually violent predators in the region, building more affordable housing and finding more solutions to the homeless crisis. He added that people need treatment and other programs, not just shelters.

"We as a county, we as a people are much, much better than that," Desmond said.

Desmond, whose district includes a good portion of North County, said he intends to protect that region and do everything he can to ensure law enforcement has the resources it needs.

A frequent critic of the San Diego Association of Governments' regional transportation plan, Desmond said the organization "needs a plan we can all buy into regionally, instead of doom and gloom, and mileage taxes."

Martinez, the county's first female sheriff, kept her remarks short. She thanked supporters, including her husband Pete, and added that relatives had flown into San Diego for the ceremony.

"It (has) been a long road, one I didn't expect to take at this point in my life," said Martinez, who started with the department as a deputy in 1985. "I'm absolutely committed to public safety in this region," Martinez said, adding she's excited about Vargas taking over as board chairwoman. "I'm just so grateful and I'm ready to get to work."

The DA since 2017, Stephan thanked Superior Court Judge Michael T. Smyth for swearing her in, and noted that democracy is best represented when the courts are its cradle.

"We've stayed focused on the rule of law, of following our oath and not playing politics with everyone's safety," Stephan said of her office.

Stephan said that as one example of the DA's Office commitment, during the COVID-19 pandemic, her office handled a sexual assault case in which prosecutors chose to interview the victim in person, rather than remotely.

"They needed us, and they needed to see our heart," she added.

Stephan praised her legal colleagues and listed various accomplishments, including a new family justice center, a program to help juveniles avoid the justice system and improved rape kit testing.

Stephan also said it's possible for the DA's Office to protect the rights of victims, the community and the accused at the same time.

Marks took the oath administered by his predecessor Ernest J. Dronenburg Jr. Mark's wife Eva and young son David stood next to him.

Dronenburg said Marks is "an outstanding person. He's got the experience, as well as a love for the taxpayer."

Marks' son chimed in several times as his father took the oath, which elicited good-natured laughter from the gallery.

"I think after my son, I should probably just head to my seat now," Marks said, adding that his office "is about serving the community during its most precious moments," including marriages, birth certificates and establishing a business license.

The Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk's office covers "Oceanside to Otay, from Borrego to the border," Marks said. "I'm honored to earn the trust of the public and continuing to offer great customer service," by putting the public first.

Now in his sixth term as treasurer/tax collector, McAllister was sworn in by Deborah Szekely, a nationally recognized, 100-year-old wellness advocate who also founded the Golden Door and Rancho La Puerta health spas.

McAllister's son stood next to him. McAllister said he was proud of his office's 123 employees who offer customer service every day, and use the latest technology to do that.

"Things work well, and we want to keep it that way," he said.

He added that the Treasurer/Tax Collector office assists 200 public agencies in the county, including all 42 school and five college districts. Twenty years ago, he noted that the office collected $2.6 billion in property taxes. This year, it expects to collect $8.1 billion.

The office also has a 99% collection rate, McAllister said, adding that "other counties are close, but San Diego leads the way."

McAllister listed other achievements, including managing a $16 billion retirement fund, educational forums, allowing residents to pay their taxes online, improved office access and an expanded social media program.

McAllister mentioned that his office received national recognition for its efforts during the pandemic.

"We're very proud of what we do — we've surpassed our goals, year in and year out," he said.