Barger reflects on term as Board of Supervisors chair

FILE PHOTO Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger speaks at the Hyatt Regency Valencia. Eddy Martinez/The Signal.

It has been a year unlike any other — with a need to address a global pandemic, as well as widespread civil unrest — for Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who spent 2020 as chair of the Board of Supervisors, what some call the nation’s most powerful local government body. 

Barger, whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita Valley, reflected Thursday on her term as chair, as she is expected to pass the gavel next week to Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, who represents the 1st District and has served as the board’s chair pro tem. The title rotates based on a vote by the board each year.

“I would like to thank you all for your partnership throughout this process, and your willingness to do your part to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Barger said during Thursday’s county briefing on coronavirus updates, which she has presided over since the onset of the pandemic. “I really, really appreciate everything you all have done.” 

The COVID-19 virtual briefings, which had moved from daily to weekly updates, became one of many tasks she took on, announcing the “Safer at Home” order in March before the public in a county with 10 million residents. 

Through her term as chair, she brought video series on mental health for those affected by the pandemic, introduced motions and other efforts that pushed for variances for local communities and financial resources, as well as stood behind lone votes she cast on issues such as Measure J, which voters approved in November, and the current order that once again halted outdoor dining, both matters Barger voted against. 

“I’m a ‘no’ vote because, for example, on restaurants, I’m very much about data,” she said in a phone interview with The Signal. “I’m very much about, if you believe that is the reason why it’s happening then I’m going to stand behind you, but there was no nexus whatsoever to the increase (in COVID-19 figures and outdoor dining).”

Her agenda for the duration of her term focused on improving the lives of vulnerable youth by positively impacting their lives, she said in her opening remarks as chair last year. 

“I think the fact that the pandemic came two months into my chairmanship clearly threw a wrench in really what I envisioned for my year,” she said. “Really my year was going to be about celebrating our youth and investing in our youth. So, I had to pivot.” 

Despite the challenging term, Barger said she was thankful for the opportunity to serve. She also helped put together a financial literacy program to serve transitional-age foster youth. 

“I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to lead during this challenging time,” said Barger. “I feel that, as an elected, things are put before us that may not exactly be what we prepared for but at the same time, it’s what we signed up for. As public servants that’s our job.”

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