In a surprising move prompting the female minority of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors to say they felt passed over, the board selected Federal Glover as its next chair and its newest member Ken Carlson as vice chair for its next term.
The vote was 3-1-1, with District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis abstaining and District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen voting no.
The sticking point was whether Carlson -- a former Pleasant Hill city councilmember and the board's first openly gay member – should ascend to a leadership position in only his second year on the board.
Current chairperson John Gioia pushed for Carlson to be elevated into the vice chair spot because doing so would make a statement about inclusiveness.
"I think we're making history by appointing an LGBTQ member of our board for the first time as an officer," Gioia said. "And I would hope you would recognize that as well. And I appreciate there's different points of view here. There's not hard feelings, but I think some of the characterizations (are) inaccurate."
Burgis and Andersen said they believed the roles of chair and vice chair usually rotated annually among members, outside of special circumstances -- like in 2022, when retiring supervisor Karen Mitchoff asked to serve as chair her final year, seemingly passing over District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover, who was vice chair -- and was again, under Mitchoff.
Glover will get his next turn as chair in 2024. But it will be with Carlson as vice chair, keeping both Andersen and Burgis out of leadership positions for an extra year.
Both women supported Glover as chair, but with Andersen as vice chair, saying that was what the traditional rotation system called for. Burgis was chair in 2021, while Andersen last chaired the board in 2020.
Andersen also said it wasn't necessarily about who's in leadership positions as much as what district they represent. Carlson represents District 4, the same as Mitchoff when she was chair in 2022.
"Certainly you can try and justify it, but ... really it's disingenuous to say you're doing anything other than skipping over Diane and me," Andersen said.
Gioia said there were plenty of examples when the board has gone outside the rotation system, including when former District 3 Supervisor Mary Piepho served as vice chair in her second year in 2006, followed by becoming chair in 2007.
The chairperson runs meetings and sets the agendas. Andersen said each supervisor represents more than 200,000 people.
"We each deserve an opportunity in our right time to be chair," Andersen said. "And by skipping over someone, I think you do lose the opportunity for that district to have their voice heard in a different way by running agendas, by making sure that we continue to fairly represent the entire county."
Carlson, who voted for himself as vice chair, said he didn't see evidence that a strict rotation was in place the past two decades.
"Little did I know I would be a hot topic when I came in this morning," Carlson said.