The rotation of board members means that, according to current policies, Matt Rexroad would become the next chair and preside over meetings. However, sensing an opportunity to change the system when it is least likely to anger his colleagues as they are in line to become chair, Mr. Rexroad is suggesting that we alter the system.
The Vanguard spoke to Matt Rexroad by phone on Friday evening. In his view, not everyone is equally qualified to be chair.
For instance, some of his colleagues have refused to speak for the board or for the county, when they were in the minority on a vote. The view of the board should be that of three members, which would be a majority, not that of the individual member who is serving as chair.
Mr. Rexroad felt that three of his former colleagues, including some prior to when he got on the board, did a poor job as chair and a poor job of speaking for the board majority.
Currently the board chair has a few extra duties including running meetings, writing the agenda, the power to call special meetings and even the power to declare a state of emergency. Moreover, the chair is the voice of the board, representing the county with the media and when dealing with other jurisdictions.
One of his colleagues that Matt Rexroad thought did a great job as chair was Supervisor Mike McGowan of West Sacramento.
However, Supervisor McGowan appears not to be particularly fond of the plan, telling the Davis Enterprise, “That just leads to mischief. That leads to some bad feelings. I think it leads to some struggles that aren’t necessary.”
Supervisor McGowan, while acknowledging that there are good examples of strong leadership, such as West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon who has pushed projects through the pipeline as a strong mayor with good leadership skills.
However, overall Mr. McGowan is standing firm for the weak chair system.
“The annual transfer of power keeps a good balance,” Supervisor McGowan told the Enterprise, “because it reinforces the notion that we have to work collaboratively and equally together. We are equals on the board. That’s one reason there’s such a high level of civility and congeniality.”
There would appear to be some strengths to this approach, but the downside would appear to be the ramifications on pitting one colleague against another. Just ask the Davis City Council. Time will tell how those wounds heal.
And while Mr. Rexroad may see such struggles to be a possibility, he clearly believed it would be the exception rather than the rule. Moreover, it would ensure that those most capable of serving as chair would step forward.
Counting votes, this would appear to be another one of those where Mr. Rexroad loses by a 4-1 vote. Supervisor McGowan is dead set against it. It seems likely that Jim Provenza, as the Supervisor from the Fourth District who is poised to become chair next year, would oppose it. Duane Chamberlain, who represents the first District, would appear to be one of the targets of Mr. Rexroad’s initiative.
One wild card is Don Saylor, and it is difficult to know how Mr. Saylor would approach this issue, whether he believes he could eventually be chair, or if he does not want to cross his colleagues Supervisors McGowan and Provenza.
In all, it is an interesting idea but it would be difficult to get the colleagues to change their organizational structure without an imminent and compelling need, and frankly I just do not see one.
The advantages of a modified system are there, but they are not overwhelming in the face of the drawbacks. It is not clear to me that the Board of Supervisors or the Board of Education are worse run than the Davis City Council or other systems that have a stronger mayorship.
Then again, I know of a number of people who think that Davis should go from the system it has now to some sort of voting process so that the council does not end up with a minority mayor who is constantly undercut by the council majority.
—David M. Greenwald reporting