In a surprise move, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors revisited an earlier decision and elected Debbie Arnold chairwoman and Lynn Compton vice chairwoman for the remainder of the year.
The move on Tuesday came after members of the public accused the board of sexism for earlier passing over Arnold for the vice chair position.
In January, the board elected Frank Mecham chairman and Adam Hill vice chairman, but they agreed to review the issue when the board was criticized for not taking public comment when Mecham and Hill were selected.
At the beginning of Tuesday’s hearing, Mecham announced that he would make a motion to step down as chairman and nominate Arnold and Compton to fill the top two spots on the board.
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“I am trying to solve a problem, and this is the only way I can see to do it,” Mecham said.
“Frank, you really surprised me,” Arnold said. “I am honored by the vote of confidence.”
The vote was not unanimous, however. Supervisors Bruce Gibson and Hill voted “no.”
“What we are seeing here is partisanship, not gender bias,” Hill said.
Gibson told Mecham that he was taking the easy way out and the board should stick to its informal protocol of selecting the chairman and vice chairman according to the sequence of their district number.
“You are the rightful chair, followed by Hill, Compton and then Arnold,” Gibson told Mecham.
Mecham’s gesture to step down in favor of Arnold drew widespread praise from audience members. Dozens thanked him for it.
“Thank you for listening to the public and restoring integrity to the board,” said Joyce Albright of Los Osos.