San Diego County Officially Ends Cindy Chavez’ Job Quest, Hires In-house Candidate as CAO

This has been updated June 5 to reflect the official Board of Supervisors action.

Longtime San Diego County employee Ebony Shelton was the unanimous choice of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to be the new chief administrative officer, board chair Nora Vargas announced Wednesday evening.

The supervisors voted unanimously on June 4 to confirm Shelton's appointment.

The decision ended once and for all a nearly 18-month quest by Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who had been the top choice for the post a year ago.

Earlier this month, a lawyer for Chavez threatened to sue her San Diego counterparts for the way she claimed she was treated as an applicant for the $400,000 post. She had been vigorously and publicly supported this spring in a renewed bid for the CAO post by San Diego Democrats and public employee unions.

The San Diego supervisors voted in closed session May 23 to select Shelton, the deputy chief administrative officer/chief financial officer, but held off identifying the appointee until it completed contract negotiations, according to City News Service, a southern California regional wire service.

Vargas, who had been the target of attacks by union leaders for allegedly dropping Chavez as a finalist for the position, pointedly praised Shelton as “a highly regarded and eminently qualified candidate from our own community…with a deep understanding of our community,” in a statement reported by City News Service.

Shelton, the county’s deputy chief administrative officer/chief financial officer, has been a San Diego County employee for nearly 30 years.

According to a statement from Vargas’ office, Shelton is a native San Diegan “and proud Afro-Latina of Black and Salvadoran ancestry, (who) understands the impacts of history on Black and Latino communities.” Vargas’ rejection of Chavez had been criticized by some union leaders for allegedly ignoring a “woman of color.”

Crystal Irving, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 221, this week appeared to walk back his earlier criticism of the county’s CAO search, saying Shelton’s appointment “concludes a challenging process.”

In a statement to City News Service, Irving said Shelton “will be the first Black woman selected as CAO by the county, and for that, we recognize real progress.”

“Unfortunately, the opaque selection process did not create an opportunity for Ms. Shelton to share her vision as an applicant, including what changes need to be made in the culture and operations and how to execute them,” Irving said.


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.


  1. Typical Labor maneuver.
    Backroom deal, to get out-of towner Cindy Chavez appointed to top County job in San Diego, backfires when one of her Labor allies on the San Diego BOS gets accused of multiple sexual allegations.
    Nathan Fletcher resigns and checks into rehab.
    Public pressure causes BOS to restart process.
    Afro-Latina woman with long history of qualified experience in San Diego County gets the job.
    And Cindy Chavez cries that she’s being discriminated against because she’s a woman of color.
    You can’t make this stuff up!

  2. Oh puleeze.!! San Diego wanted someone on the inside from the get-go, but they didn’t want it to look like it was a slam dunk done deal.! If you already have a highly qualified, effective employee with years of service why would you NOT promote that person. Instead, the Board made a sham of the selection process for 18 months, wasting who-knows-how-much taxpayer money into the process. And Cindy Chavez has the temerity to raise the “race card”.?! With her years in politics one would think she was more savvy about such maneuvering and would have said nothing more than congratulatory wishes to her competition. Instead she presents herself as the quintessential poor looser.

  3. Maybe this threat to sue attitude was reflected in earlier interviews and she was a turn off. We didn’t vote her in for Mayor here, and San Diego didn’t need her either.

  4. The bay area really lost out with San Diego not taking Chavez away. One could only hope. Hopefully though her name will slowly fade from politics and she’ll move to Reno.

  5. Hopefully Cindy Chavez will be prosecuted for her Covid tyranny along with the rest of those local elected officials who violated our human rights.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *