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Politics

Nora Vargas voted in as county Board of Supervisors chair

The county Board of Supervisors unanimously elected Nora Vargas to serve as chair Tuesday, while Terra Lawson-Remer was chosen as vice chair and Joel Anderson as chair pro-tem.

First elected in 2020 to represent District 1, Vargas replaces Nathan Fletcher, who served two terms as chair. Last month, Fletcher announced that he wouldn't seek a third term and proposed Vargas, a fellow Democrat, as his successor.

In a speech after the vote, Vargas said she will work "with transparency and accountability," and let county employees know their work is respected.

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"It wasn't that long ago that I was on the other side of the (board) dais," advocating for children, students and teachers, Vargas said.

She added that she wants to ensure everyone has access to health care, clean air and water, a green work force and resources to help small businesses.

Vargas also said the board will focus on expanding public transit and making more investments in parks.

"This is your county," she told the audience. "These are your chambers."

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Referring to past contentious meetings — often involving harsh criticism from those opposed to previous county mandates in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic — Vargas said she wants to people to disagree, but in a civil manner.

"At times, our chambers have been polarizing," Vargas said. "But harassment, threats, and anti-BIPOC and LGBTQ rhetoric will not be tolerated in these chambers."

Vargas said she wants to find common ground with other elected leaders.

"With that as a guidance principle, there's very little that we can't accomplish," she added.

After giving the same speech in Spanish, Vargas said, "Now let's get to work; thank you, everyone."

In a statement, Fletcher said Vargas "has proven she is an effective and driven person with an unmatched level of care and compassion for our community. I am excited to see what she accomplishes as chairwoman of the board."

Lawson-Remer, a Democrat representing District 3, said Tuesday's vote was "a historic day for our county."

She thanked Fletcher for shepherding in a new era, and said she was excited to welcome Vargas as chair.

"We are incredibly lucky to have her in this new role," Lawson-Remer added.

In a statement, Lawson-Remer described her and Vargas' roles as "a move that broke historic barriers to representation, (and) spoke to moving an ambitious set of initiatives focused on equity and environmental sustainability."

Vargas is the first Latina and immigrant to chair the Board of Supervisors, and for the first time in its history, the board will be led by two women with Lawson-Remer as vice chair.

Anderson, a Republican representing District 2, also said he was excited for Vargas and that their districts share similar issues. Supervisor Jim Desmond, a Republican representing District 5, said Vargas "will do a fantastic job."

"You're gonna be chair of everything, so good luck," he said jokingly. "I look forward to working with you."

Desmond also thanked Fletcher for his time and effort as chairman, adding, "even though we didn't agree on everything, but you put in the time and effort to get the job done."