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A new era on the Board of Supervisors


With the inauguration of Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger, the five-member Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is
making history, with four women members forming its first-ever female supermajority. The new supervisors
and their colleagues on the Board reflect on what the changes mean and what’s ahead in 2017.


 


“I really think it is going to be a major game changer for us”


Supervisor Solis

“I think it’s historical. We are cracking the glass ceiling, and who would have expected that in this election cycle? Little did we know, given what went on nationally, that we would end up with a majority of women. I really think it is going to be a major game changer for us. We’ll have our own unique talents and interests, but when we look at regional interests, we’ll be able to come together to meet the needs of the 10 million people we represent in L.A. County. This is an opportunity for us as leaders to showcase what the county really does. The recession soured a lot of people, left lots of people down and out, and some still are. Our mission is to lift those people. Find jobs, get services, create opportunities, help young people think about careers, find opportunities to dream again.”

 

 


“This board is going to be very diverse”


Supervisor Ridley-Thomas

"There's no denying the historical import of the occasion, particularly against the backdrop of the decrease in women in public office across the nation. There’s been a reduction in women in the state legislature, and the circumstance in the Los Angeles City Council, where there is only one woman. Given the reality of all that, this is very significant. I trust that it won’t be overlooked that this board is going to be very diverse. There are four women, but women who are very different in their background and experiences. I think the issue of gender-based discrimination will be more clearly and consistently articulated and I expect that issues that pertain to the rights of women will be elevated. Those things, to my thinking, are positive because that moves us more in the direction of the fulfillment of democracy. And this is what we are essentially in pursuit of. I welcome the opportunity to serve with these four Supervisors.”

 

 


“It will show people the different ways in which women can be leaders”


Supervisor Kuehl

“Women tend to, in a very sincere way, work together better.  We can be competitive, but not in a chest-bumping way. More often women in collective bodies, like legislatures and the Board of Supervisors, are somewhat more collaborative, less focused on getting credit and more on getting it done. It will be a real study in four different ways to be a woman in office. There’s the obvious: Hilda’s a Latina, I’m a lesbian, Kathryn is a Republican, Janice comes from a political dynasty. There are differences and different spheres of interests, just like men have differences. I think it will show people the different ways in which women can be leaders. I hope it will model a type of non-partisan collaboration that should be the hallmark of the Board of Supervisors, which is one of the most effective forms of government we have.”

 

 


“A good model for the rest of the country, and an example for the world"


Supervisor Hahn

"I think my dad [the late Supervisor Kenneth Hahn] would be shocked today. As wonderful as my father was, he never would have conceived in his wildest dreams that there would be a woman majority on his Board of Supervisors.  In his era, they were known as the ‘five kings.’  To have four women on the board?  That’s not something he would have thought possible. There’s so much about governing the county that is so workable. I came from a very politically-gridlocked body [Congress] where very little gets done.  To be part of a group that works on problem-solving, not politics, will be very satisfying.  The thought of working with four other people who are putting political labels aside and looking to solve the big problems of the county—homelessness, public safety, transportation—that’s what’s important to me. I think we’re going to be a good model for the rest of the country, and an example for the world.”

 

 


“It's going to be a board that will be looking for solutions to problems"


Supervisor Barger

"When I started in 1989, there were five men on the board.  Even all of the chiefs of staff were male.  I’ve grown up in the county and seen it change dramatically. Even the number of women department heads has gone up two- or three-fold. I feel like it’s been an organic thing. It’s grown over the years and I’ve watched it—from one to two [women Supervisors] and now the jump to four.  I’m excited by that. I do know that it’s going to be a board that will be looking for solutions to problems. I know how the board works, and I know this is going to be a new experience, even for me. But relationships here have been rock solid, and I don’t see that changing. This county is a family and we treat each other as a family—and that’s not going to be any different.”