Shawn Nelson took over Tuesday as chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
Nelson was elected by a 5-0 vote despite concerns publicly voiced by Supervisor Janet Nguyen to the Orange County Register that Nelson’s often combative style of questioning staff from the dais would be an issue.
“I didn’t expect any surprises today,” Nelson said after the vote.
Supervisor Pat Bates, who confirmed this week that she will run for the state Senate when her term is up in 2014, was elected as vice chairwoman.
While Nelson disputed that there was any chance he did not have the votes to take over as chairman, Nguyen did speak from the dais about a meeting the two had on Monday.
On Tuesday, Nguyen thanked Nelson for meeting with her, saying “We had a great dialogue. … I do appreciate his visit.”
Nguyen, who was sworn in along with Supervisor Todd Spitzer on Monday, had preferred Spitzer over Nelson for the chairmanship, according to the Register article.
Nguyen and Nelson have served together for two years, yet she characterized Monday’s meeting as helpful “getting to know each other” and for “coming to a consensus.”
While Nelson is not a fan of the public obituaries that supervisors often read at the end of meetings, on Monday he did not signal an attempt to curb the practice, which was a concern voiced by Nguyen.
“My role is to represent the consensus,” Nelson said. “The chairman’s responsibility is to represent the board.”
He didn’t specify his goals as chairman other than to say “my objective at the end of the year is that the county is well-managed.”
Nelson noted that the most important decision facing supervisors now is the selection of a new CEO and filling the other vacancies at the top echelon of the county, such as performance auditor.
After their public meeting, supervisors retired to conduct offsite CEO interviews with about a half dozen candidates at the nearby offices of First American Title Co.
Staffers indicated that the desire by supervisors was to conduct closed session interviews in an environment where media would not be able to get a sense of who is applying for the post.
While Nelson denied that Nguyen’s private lobbying against him had any effect, he said some of the tension between offices had to do with the drama of the last year when CEO Tom Mauk was ousted, in part by Nelson’s prodding.
“Some of the stuff we went through festered for a long time,” Nelson said on Tuesday in an interview with reporters after being elected chairman.
Nelson said that besides selecting a CEO, he also wants to see things like county real estate assets, purchasing and human resources reconsolidated after years of decentralization.
“We have a lot of people on islands right now,” Nelson said.