RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Riverside County Supervisor Manuel Perez on Tuesday took the helm as board chair, receiving unanimous support for placement in the position, which is rotated annually among members.
“It’s an honor and a blessing for me to be here,” Perez said after taking his seat at the center of the dais. “Riverside County is my birthplace. I am a product of UC Riverside. I am proud to be the first Latino on the Board of Supervisors, and the first to serve as its chair.”
Perez acknowledged the “many reforms” inaugurated by his predecessor, Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, who at seven years representing the First District, is currently the most seasoned member of the board.
Perez, who represents the Fourth District, encompassing the Coachella Valley and all parts east to the Arizona state line, said he recognized that 2020 brings “a lot of issues we have to prioritize,” and one of his top concerns is homelessness.
“This year, I hope that we try to tackle that issue. It’s a big one,” he said. “But my colleagues want to tackle it as well, and I know we will get something done.”
The Department of Public Social Services has been developing and refining protocols for reducing homelessness. On Jan. 29, the county will conduct its annual “Point-In-Time Homeless Count” to estimate the number of dispossessed people living in shelters, on the streets, in encampments and other places not suitable for human habitation.
The count last January showed nearly 3,000 people who could be categorized as temporarily or chronically homeless. However, officials believe the figure may not represent the true homeless population countywide.
According to Perez, expanding mental health services and affordable housing programs will be key to solving the problem.
The supervisor said he secondarily hopes to promote a “culture of respect and dignity” within county government and among the citizenry as a whole.
“We need to make sure we really … treat each other with respect, from the ground to the top,” Perez said. “It’s a small vision for 2020, but I do believe in our county and communities, and the power of the people.”
The chair guides the pace of board meetings, helps set agendas, serves in a variety of ceremonial capacities and signs proclamations and resolutions.
Supervisor Karen Spiegel, who represents the Second District, was named co-chair.