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Salinas >> It didn’t take long for the mantle of leadership to weigh heavily on the shoulders of District 1 Supervisor Luis Alejo.

Alejo, who assumed the chairmanship of the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, marked the occasion with a Martin Luther King Day ceremony featuring NAACP Monterey Branch President Regina Mason reading from a fiery speech given by the civil rights icon more than half a century ago on the “three evils of society,” including racism, materialism and militarism, and tying it to modern day challenges.

But it didn’t take long before Alejo found himself in the midst of a controversy sparked by his decision as chairman of the board to shift the two female supervisors off key assignments in favor of himself, including Supervisor Jane Parker off the Local Agency Formation Commission and Supervisor Mary Adams off the board’s ad hoc cannabis committee.

Amid criticism led by the Democratic Women of Monterey County organization, which noted the gender of the two supervisors it argued were most affected by the proposed moves, Alejo announced he would restore Parker to LAFCO while declining Parker’s request to hold off on the cannabis committee assignment until Adams was present. Adams, the outgoing board chairwoman, missed Tuesday’s meeting and told The Herald she was on a long-planned family trip to Morocco.

Parker said she wanted to remain on the LAFCO board because she had to wait eight years to finally secure the assignment, and wanted to weigh in on critical issues including Salinas city and Marina Coast Water District annexation proposals.

Alejo defended his proposed assignments by pointing out he had suggested just three changes out of the 50 assignments, adding that assignments were never intended to be permanent and that he had accepted the chair’s “prerogative” when he was shifted off some assignments last year. He said he had wanted to serve on LAFCO since he was in public office in Santa Cruz County, where he served on the Watsonville City Council. He said he would seek an assignment at some point in the future. And he pointed out that he had assigned Adams to the important Monterey Bay Air Pollution Control District board.

While decrying “false and misleading information” criticizing him, Alejo said he believed he had reached a good compromise. The board ultimately approved the assignments by a unanimous vote.

During brief comments on Tuesday, Alejo said he would focus his efforts during the upcoming year on affordable housing and homelessness, noting new state funding available to promote housing. He also promised to continue actively opposing the Trump administration’s “attacks” on “farmers and their families” and “sanctuary communities,” as well as ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status for El Salvadorans.




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Alejo noted the progress made over the past year on identifying both a temporary homeless shelter and a permanent shelter site, starting up a safe parking program and “changing the conversation” on caring for the homeless. He lauded the county’s upgraded credit rating while noting budget challenges ahead.

While the former State Assemblyman has acknowledged he is considering a run for State Senate against State Assemblywoman Anna Caballero later this year, Alejo declined to respond to The Herald’s inquiry about whether he has made a decision on such a run.

Jim Johnson can be reached at 831-726-4348.



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