New Sheriff Kelly Martinez and Assessor-Recorder-County Clerk Jordan Marks were sworn into office Monday along with four re-elected county officials, in a personalized ceremony that offered glimpses of their visions for public safety, mental healthcare and climate action.
Returning Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Jim Desmond, District Attorney Summer Stephan and Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister were also sworn in during the event at the County Administration Center on Waterfront Park.
Standing with their families, officials took oaths administrated by officiators of their choice. Fletcher was sworn in by his former drill instructor Patrick Casao Jr., now an adult protective services specialist for the county, Desmond by Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians Chairman Bo Mazzetti, and Marks by his predecessor Ernie Dronenburg.
Martinez, the first woman to lead the $1.1 billion sheriff’s department, was sworn into asix-year term as the county’s top law enforcement officer by San Diego Superior Court Judge Michael S. Groch.
“It’s been a long road — one that I didn’t expect to be taking at this point in my life — but I’m really grateful to be elected to this position, and I’m going to take my office very seriously,” she said.
Stephan took her second full term under an oath administered by San Diego Superior Court Presiding Judge Michael T. Smyth, on a bible held by her eldest daughter.
She pointed to last year’s opening of the North County Family Justice Center, where victims of domestic abuse or elder abuse can receive crisis care, forensic medical exams, counseling and housing referrals, and she said that new protocols to document choking or strangulation had helped reduce domestic violence killings in the county.
“You can protect the rights of victims, you can protect the right of the community to be safe, and you can protect the rights of the accused and give them fairness, all at the same time,” she said. “That is the only choice for a modern-day prosecutor’s office.”
After four years in office, most of it during the COVID-19 pandemic, Supervisors Fletcher and Desmond aired their priorities for the county, while stressing the board’s efforts to work across partisan divides.
“We find common ground when it’s possible, and we’re always willing to make reasonable compromises,” Fletcher said after being sworn into his second term. “It demonstrates an important lesson to the public — that people can actually disagree, vote differently, but still recognize the integrity of the person who sits beside them.”
Under the current board, the county has overhauled its behavioral health system, adding crisis stabilization centers for mental health emergencies and mobile crisis response teams to respond to mental health or substance abuse calls in lieu of law enforcement.
With a new climate action plan and blueprint for eliminating carbon emissions, supervisors have been “working find a path to tackle climate change and renewable energy but also protecting good county jobs,” Fletcher said.
Desmond said he aimed to offer “reasonable, rational solutions” to regional problems including housing, homelessness, transportation and public safety.
“We have a huge housing deficit in North County, and we need to address that,” he said, adding that he opposes new fees on home-building.
He called for revamping regional transportation policy, decrying transit plans from the San Diego Association of Governments as “a fantasy of fixed rails and packed trains and buses.”
Instead, he said, the region should invest in roads, highways and alternative fuels that would meet carbon reduction goals by supporting cleaner passenger vehicles. “SANDAG needs a plan we could all buy into regionally, instead of threats of doom and gloom and mileage taxes,” he said.
Marks was sworn in by the former assessor, both wearing bow ties that have been Dronenburg’s signature accessory. The incoming assessor was accompanied by his wife and young son, who drew laughter from the audience as he joined in his father’s oath.
“I’m truly grateful for the opportunity and the privilege you entrust to me today,” Marks said. “I’m grateful to my friend and mentor, the legend Ernie Dronenburg, for issuing the oath of office and passing me the bow tie.”
McAllister, who has spent 20 years as treasurer, took an oath administered by philanthropist and wellness entrepreneur Deborah Szekely, who founded the Golden Door luxury spa in North County.
He said his office has expanded access to online tax payment systems and expects to reach 99 percent collection rates this year.