Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt was seated Tuesday as the 2022 chairman of the Board of Supervisors, but in a strange twist, two supervisors withheld their votes supporting him for the largely ceremonial post.
Top on the board’s agenda was appointing a chair and vice chair, as is custom at the beginning of every year. Supervisor Karen Spiegel was the outgoing chair from 2021 and initiated the process of handing over the baton.
“I’m really proud to have served on this board with Supervisor Spiegel,” Hewitt said. “She had a lot of challenges. Supervisor (Manuel) Perez the year before conducted himself in a really good manner. Learning things from other leaders is a real honor, and hopefully I can continue on in that vein.”
The chair oversees establishing board schedules, guiding hearings, attending functions on behalf of the entire board, signing proclamations and other duties that don’t require a quorum.
Traditionally, the board rotates the position annually, and the line of succession is based only on whichever district supervisor is slated for a turn. This year, it was the fifth district, represented by Hewitt.
Supervisors Perez, Chuck Washington and Spiegel were not in the board chamber, electing instead to join the meeting virtually via Zoom as a precaution amid current public health concerns stemming from COVID-19.
When the vote for chair and vice chair was called, Hewitt and Supervisor Kevin Jeffries had to make and then second the motion themselves. Spiegel voted to seat the men, and they voted to seat themselves, but Perez and Washington abstained from voting.
In at least the last two decades, all votes for chair and vice chair have been unanimous.
There was no comment by either Perez or Washington, who served as chairs in 2020 and 2018, respectively.
Hewitt is a registered Libertarian, and Perez and Washington are Democrats. The supervisors have had public disagreements during board meetings, but the conflicts never led to open hostility or harsh words, though votes on some matters were divided.
Hewitt did not list his objectives or ideas for the coming year, which his predecessors sometimes have done.
Jeffries, who is the most senior supervisor and intends to retire at the end of his term in 2024, will step in as chair whenever Hewitt is unavailable.