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County supervisors identify leading candidate for chief administrative officer

The San Diego County Administration Building in downtown San Diego on Wednesday, September 25, 2013.
Angela Carone
The San Diego County Administration Building in downtown San Diego on Wednesday, September 25, 2013.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors has identified a leading candidate in the national search for a new chief administrative officer (CAO), and are planning to announce that person's name on Thursday once negotiations are concluded.

According to Chairwoman Nora Vargas' office, the board voted after a closed session meeting Wednesday.

If approved at a future public meeting, the candidate will replace Helen Robbins-Meyer, who retired earlier this year. Sarah Aghassi, a longtime county official, has served as the interim CAO since Robbins-Meyer's departure.


Vargas' office said the board expects to make an announcement on the CAO position on June 4.

"I am excited that, as a board, we have unanimously reached this stage in the selection process, and I am confident that our chosen candidate will bring exceptional leadership and vision to San Diego County," Vargas said in a statement. "I am looking forward to finalizing the agreement and introducing the new CAO to our community. We have a lot more work to do together to build healthier, stronger communities."

Earlier this month, supervisors held a special closed session to find a permanent CAO, who acts essentially as the county mayor. The CAO's office compiles the budget and keeps the county running day-to-day.

Robbins-Meyer retired in January after serving in the position since 2012. She first announced her retirement in October 2022, with a planned departure in late March 2023.

However, she stayed in her position following a political earthquake involving former District 4 Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. He resigned in May 2023 in the wake of sexual assault and harassment allegations involving a former Metropolitan Transit System employee, which he has denied.


Supervisors voted 4-0 in April 2023 in favor of keeping Robbins-Meyer as interim CAO for a limited time. Last September, the board restarted the CAO search.

On Jan. 9, supervisors selected Aghassi — previously deputy CAO with 18 years total experience in San Diego County government — for the head job while the recruitment process took place.