Board Games

Meetings are hard work or hardly working

By Howard Schmidt
March 2023

Serving on the Board of Supervisors requires more than attending meetings.

Each supervisor is assigned additional duties to represent the county on a number of regional boards and commissions that deal with issues such as transportation, air quality and criminal justice. There are assignments that involve internal committees within the county bureaucracy.

The board typically convenes to divvy up meeting assignments. This year was no exception.

The board clerk lists approximately 48 appointments that supervisors must fill from their ranks. The selection process involves going over the assignment list and seeking consensus on who is going to serve on what.

Those appointments involve attending many meetings separate from county board meetings. Or do they?

When the subject of serving on the County Leadership Advisory Committee surfaced this year, County Executive Ann Edwards acknowledged there hadn’t been any meetings of that group since she took charge. Newly elected Supervisor Pat Hume quipped, “Happy to take that one.” His colleagues agreed, but he still has more demanding assignments.

Regional boards, including the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, require the participation of each supervisor. Same with boards overseeing the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Agency, Sacramento Area Sewer District, Sacramento County Water Agency, Sacramento Metropolitan Cable Commission, Sacramento Transportation Agency, Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District, Area 4 Agency on Aging, Sacramento County Water Financing Agency and Sacramento Public Library Authority.

Some of these boards allow supervisors to appoint alternates to attend those meetings. But not all have an escape mechanism.

Typically, supervisors find others to fill in for them on the cable commission. They also can exit meetings of the flood agency. Most delegate their staff to attend. The transportation agency and library say substitutions must be other elected officials.

Hume, who represents rural parts of south county, sits on the Capital Southeast Connector Authority Board of Directors, Delta Protection Commission and Freeport Regional Water Authority.

Because Supervisors Patrick Kennedy and Phil Serna represent most of Sacramento’s central urban core, they serve on the Sacramento Regional Transit District.

Supervisors Sue Frost and Rich Desmond, who represent most of the urbanized unincorporated area, are assigned to the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission, which reviews various municipal services. In 2010, LAFCo processed the proposed incorporation of Arden Arcade. It was soundly rejected by voters.

And there are bodies such as the County Law Library Board of Trustees. No supervisor wanted that, so they assigned County Counsel Lisa Travis.

The Northern California World Trade Center requires two supervisors, usually the chair of the Board of Supervisors and the vice chair as alternate.

Desmond is this year’s board chair so he got the assignment. Kennedy humorously warned the job is a “huge suck of time,” joking for eight years there has never been a meeting.

Howard Schmidt worked on federal, state and local levels of government, including 16 years for Sacramento County. He can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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