The new chair of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors said Tuesday she will promote a “culture of respect, value and innovation” as its members contend with challenges in 2021, focusing on how best to prioritize resources and revive the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Turning a new page on the calendar doesn’t erase all the difficulties of the last year,” Chairwoman Karen Spiegel said. “We’ll be tackling many challenges and expecting many changes in Riverside County.”
Spiegel was next in line to serve at the helm of the board, having finished her term as vice chair in 2020, during which Supervisor Manuel Perez was the chair.
The seats are rotated from one district supervisor to the next annually — if the traditional process is followed. Supervisors can always decline the chair, which has been done in the last decade. However, Spiegel was confirmed Tuesday, and Supervisor Jeff Hewitt was appointed vice chair.
Along with presiding over meetings, chairpersons represent the board in ceremonial functions and oversee nominations to committees.
“COVID has taken a toll on all of us,” Spiegel said. “How do we now know where to invest our limited resources of time, energy and money? There are challenge we need to address.”
According to the chair, the board is close to hiring a new county CEO, on whose shoulders will rest a number of important decisions regarding “how to use staff and their expertise to accomplish our goals.”
Among the leading priorities, she said, is sorting out the fiscal morass stemming from the public health lockdowns, which have heavily impacted county revenues, drawing down the reserve pool. The amount of damage will not be fully assessed until the midyear budget report in February.
Spiegel said she would also like to take charge of developing a “strategic plan” that spells out where the county is headed over the next several decades. But the most important objective now is restoring the economy.
“We need to get businesses open. We need to get people back to work. We need to get children back in school,” she said. “As a small business owner, I am pained by the losses our businesses have suffered. Some will not come back. We need to get them back open.”
The chair vowed to make “2021 a better year.”
“We need a culture of respect, value and innovation to raise the quality of life in our communities,” she said. “But we have to work together, clean up our slate, make a plan with focused vision. We need to pull together to go forward.”