Cindy Chavez Emerges Again as Top Candidate for San Diego County CAO Job

The San Diego County Democratic Party is again pushing for a resolution at its county Board of Supervisors meeting, pressing the supervisors – where the Democrats have a 3-2 majority – to appoint Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez as the new San Diego County Chief Administrative Officer.

The supervisors met April 9 in private to consider the appointment. One week later, there was no announcement from San Diego County. The board's next scheduled meeting is April 30.

The position, with an advertised salary of $253,000 to $416,000 as the top staff position for San Diego County, has been officially vacant since March 2023, and has been filled by two successive acting appointees.

Chavez, who was defeated in a bid for San Jose Mayor in November 2022 by Matt Mahan, was considered the frontrunner for the San Diego administrative post because of her longtime friendship with Lorena Gonzales Fletcher, a former San Diego state assembly member and currently head of the powerful California Labor Federation.

But a sexual scandal involving Fletcher’s husband, then-supervisor Nathan Fletcher, blew up the hiring process when Democrat Nathan Fletcher resigned, leaving the board in a 2-2 Democrat/Republican split. The county postponed the hiring process until after the November election, when another Democrat won Fletcher’s seat, ensuring continuation of the Democrat majority. Fletcher also is a former state assembly member.

The fortunes of Chavez in San Diego appeared to have dimmed, as business and community leaders and county Republicans advocated for a local administrator with knowledge of San Diego County and no ties to the organized labor and partisan Democrat connections that had initially pushed Chavez for the job.

San Diego County has declined to say whether Chavez reapplied for the position last fall. The county announced in January it would conduct a nationwide search for candidates for its top administrative job. Chavez has not responded to inquiries about her interest in the position. She terms out of her supervisor seat at the end of this year.

The county Democrats claimed Tuesday that “we only know about one candidate for this position – Cindy Chavez.” The county party called Chavez “an outstanding candidate” and described the former labor leader as “an accomplished candidate who would be the first Latina CAO of the County of San Diego appointed by the first Latina chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors.”

A major Latino news outlet for the county on Tuesday appeared to reaffirm its lukewarm response to the Democrats’ resurrection of Chavez as a CAO candidate. LaPrenza San Diego published an image from San Jose Inside and a image of the county Democrats' letter with an April 16 post on X.

In the post on X, La Prensa San Diego wrote: “Dems never interviewed her or ever weighed in on admin hiring. Her selection stalled last year after @laprensasd leaked her name.” La Prensa described Chavez as a “San Jose politician and labor leader.”

One X post in response,  wrote: “Cindy is literally the reason they stopped the search. Now they want to double down and push her through?!? Uhhhhh, no. Given how hard Lorena/Nathan [Fletcher] were bidding for her, she’s BAD news.”

Sarah Aghassi was appointed in January 2024 as interim chief administrative officer for San Diego County, with unanimous support of the board.  The county announcement at the time said she brought “more than 20 years of progressively responsible executive-level strategic, political and operational leadership in both the private and public sectors” to the job. The county never said whether Aghassi was a candidate for the permanent appointment.


Three decades of journalism experience, as a writer and editor with Gannett, Knight-Ridder and Lee newspapers, as a business journal editor and publisher and as a weekly newspaper editor in Scotts Valley and Gilroy; with the Weeklys group since 2017. Recipient of several first-place writing and editing awards, California News Publishers Association.

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