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Orange County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously chose Michelle Steel as their chairwoman and Andrew Do as vice chair for 2020.

The chairperson presides over the supervisors’ public meetings, decides how long public commenters can speak, and is considered a spokesperson for the five-member Board of Supervisors at public events.

The chair can also create groups of two supervisors that meet behind closed doors on a specific issue – like which company to pick for specific contracts – and make recommendations to the full board for approval. Such groups are known as “ad hoc” committees.

The vice chair steps in as chair when the chairperson is absent at the supervisors’ meetings.

Do and Steel are running this year for what are considered the toughest election races that any of the five supervisors are seeking. Do is running for re-election as the 1st District supervisor, while Steel is running for Congress in a bid to unseat Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Huntington Beach).

During Steel’s tenure as chairwoman in 2017, she instituted a one-minute limit on public speakers – down from the usual three minutes – and when it came time to impose the limit, she let corporate executives speak more than a minute longer than county workers and homeless advocates.

As chairwoman, Steel also told a public commenter in 2017, he could not speak in a way that was “attacking” the supervisors, as she enforced a board rule banning public commenters from asking questions of county supervisors or addressing supervisors by name unless they have permission.

A judge later ruled that policy probably violates the U.S. Constitution.

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

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