Two incumbent Sonoma County supervisors and four other elected county officials were sworn in Tuesday at the Board of Supervisor’s first meeting of the year, beginning new terms in leadership as the county continues to shape its recovery from the 2017 wildfires amid financial challenges.
Supervisor David Rabbitt, first elected in 2010 to represent the 2nd District in south county, was selected by his colleagues for a standard, one-year term as the board’s chairman, leading the five-member elected body that sets the direction of county government and oversees its $1.7 billion budget.
Rabbitt, a fiscal conservative who previously served as the board’s chairman in 2013 and 2014, Tuesday took the gavel from Supervisor James Gore. Gore, who represents the 4th District in north county, served as chairman during a trying 12 months after more than 5,300 homes burned in Sonoma County. Both were re-elected after running unopposed in June.
“It’s been a true honor to serve with this board ... it’s been inspiring and purposeful to be a public servant during these times, but it’s also exciting to be turning the page, not on what happened, but into the next chapter,” said Gore, whose 7-year-old daughter, Opal, administered his oath of office.
Rabbitt, an architect and former Petaluma city councilman, said the county will in coming months undertake “generational” initiatives, moving forward with consolidation of fire agencies and making strides to pave roads in unincorporated areas. The county in December also adopted a broad recovery and resiliency blueprint, outlining priorities that include creating a more comprehensive alert and warning system and bolstering brush management to reduce fire risk.
Rabbitt said the focus should remain on completing those and other ongoing efforts in the county during what he hopes will be a “drama-free, trauma-free year.”
Policy discussions will be underscored by financial challenges, including a projected general fund shortfall next fiscal year and uncertaintly about a state reimbursement of lost property taxes.
“Fire recovery is going be front and center and in the second year, I think it’s going to be a little more difficult in some ways because of the challenges we’re going to have on the fiscal side,” Rabbitt said. “We’re going to have to be very disciplined going forward.”
Also sworn in Tuesday were Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector Erick Roeser; District Attorney Jill Ravitch, incoming Clerk-Recorder- Assessor and Registrar of Voters Deva Proto and Sheriff Mark Essick.
Ravitch, the county’s top prosecutor, said she was excited to step into her third term Tuesday.
“As always, my priorities will be to ensure public safety in the community and be smart about how we seek justice,” she said.