County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher speaks at a press conference announcing that a dilapadated county property in Hillcrest had been deemed a suitable site for a behavioral health hub. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

It sometimes trips writers up but Nathan Fletcher wasn’t the first Democrat to get onto the county Board of Supervisors after a long run of Republican rule. That was Dave Roberts, who was elected to the board in 2012. But if anyone had any hopes that Roberts would shake up county government, they were quickly dashed, and he was ousted after just one term after a series of pathetic scandals.

Fletcher entered office a year ago with high expectations – his election was the culmination of many years of planning by liberal groups and unions. He would be the only Democrat on the five-member Board of Supervisors. But labor unions and Democrats had elevated him above other Democrats in the race for the seat precisely because, as Carol Kim from the Building Trades Council put it, they wanted a leader, not just a reliable vote.

Seems like they got it. No matter your politics, there aren’t many arguments against the idea that the county is a significantly different agency than it was one year ago. You could point out that it was not just because of Fletcher – County Supervisor Dianne Jacob has been in a disruptive mood as well. The year, in fact, started with her State of the County speech where she laid out an ambitious agenda.

Fletcher, however, is almost weekly staking out positions that have generated intense conversations. It has had the effect of the larger body around him correcting accordingly. The county has begun forming a new energy company, parallel to the city’s, to purchase the electricity residents will use. The county restructured a shuttered courthouse into a refuge for asylum-seekers. Supervisors dipped into their hefty reserves to pay for affordable housing projects and are launching a network of behavioral health hubs and crisis units countywide. The board added more than $50 million to the Behavioral Health Division for 123 new employees and 70 psychiatric emergency response teams.

The supervisors are in the news more than any time in recent memory. Again, this is hardly Fletcher’s doing alone. The coalition he has built with two Republicans – Jacob and Greg Cox – has fueled this transformation.

And the transformation may not be ideal to conservative residents who preferred a county that was out of sight, out of mind and saving its money.

Over the last year, that has changed. Fletcher is a big part of why.

This is part of our Voice of the Year package, highlighting the people who played a major role in shaping civic discussion in 2019.

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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