When Kristin Gaspar took her seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in 2016, she told her staff about her desire to work with the county’s most vulnerable populations: the formerly incarcerated, the addicted and the homeless. Her “bold” vision was to create a university to teach people how to live and “empower the hopeless.”
She found that a model of that type of organization, with proven results, was already in existence with The Other Side Academy in Salt Lake City, a home and school where program participants learn social, vocational and life skills and run a booming moving business.
At her first State of the County address on Feb. 27, Chairwoman Gaspar announced that she was bringing The Other Side Academy to San Diego, helping to rebuild lives and transform those who “would have likely spent the rest of their days living off the system” into self-sufficient assets in the community. Gaspar announced that she already had secured $2 million in commitments from the community for San Diego County’s Other Side as well as formed a partnership with Sheriff Bill Gore for San Diego County’s Other Side, with support from District Attorney Summer Stephan and Public Defender Randy Mise.
“This can be built and sustained without ongoing taxpayer dollars,” said Gaspar, adding that county staff is working to locate a program site.
Innovation was the major theme of Gaspar’s address, held at the Scripps Seaside Forum in La Jolla.
“The state of the county is innovative and strong. It just is,” Gaspar said.
Gaspar spoke about the accomplishments and initiatives that she and her fellow supervisors have taken on, doing things that haven’t been done before or building on past innovations.
Gaspar said District 5 Supervisor Bill Horn, who has been on the board for 26 years, has worked to make veterans a priority—she said the first North County Homeless Vets Stand Down event he sponsored was a great success and his annual veterans conference had record-breaking attendance and this year had a focus on women.
Gaspar spoke about teaming up with Supervisor Dianne Jacob to develop a pilot program creating critical response teams for seniors with dementia with the Alzheimer Project, as well as working with Supervisor Ron Roberts to enhance back-country fire safety with the use of high-definition cameras to spot and track wildfires and a high-speed broadband network that will connect more than 60 back-country fire stations.
Gaspar also praised the county’s Live Well San Diego initiative for creating strong partnerships that promote better health and safety across San Diego. She complimented county efforts to address substance abuse and food insecurity, and Live Well partnerships that she said have saved millions in taxpayer dollars.
“We are building capacity through those community partners and we will be able to serve 30 percent more people over the next three years,” Gaspar said.
Since taking office, Gaspar said she has visited hundreds of nonprofits in San Diego and was most impressed by models that involve people taking personal responsibility for themselves and playing an active role in their transformations.She highlighted the innovative approaches taken by local nonprofits like Solutions for Change, Workshop for Warriors and Doors for Change, which has placed over 1,800 homeless youth in long-term housing while teaching them how to make it on their own.
“One of the things that appealed to me most when I joined the board was how to strengthen county social services by identifying gaps in the delivery system,” Gaspar said.
She hopes that The Other Side can be one of those in San Diego County, “a self-sustaining social enterprise, not government handouts,” a place where people are living and working together to make each other better and more accountable.
In her “Innov18” address Gaspar, the youngest woman ever elected to the county board, pointed to trailblazer Mildred Greene, who 100 years ago in 1918 ran for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to fill the seat of her late husband Harry. At the time, no woman had ever been elected to the county board in the state.
Greene bested seven male candidates in the election and not only became the first woman elected to a county board but the sheriff so admired her determination to fix county roads that he also named her deputy sheriff.
Gaspar said that 100 years ago there were 100,000 people living in San Diego County; today there are 3.5 million.
“An increase in population means an increase in challenges, but I’m proud to say that this board has moved us boldly into the future,” Gaspar said.
Gaspar said she hopes the county will continue down the road Mildred Greene began when she defied odds and ran for county supervisor, with vision and innovation that “moves government beyond the status quo so that 2018 is greater than 1918 could’ve ever imagined.”
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors will have two seats up for election in 2018—including Rancho Santa Fe’s District 5. There are currently three candidates for District 5: San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond, attorney/small businessman Robert Gerard and Oceanside City Councilmember Jerome “Jerry” Kern. The primary will be held June 5.
Gaspar, formerly the mayor of Encinitas, announced in January that she is making a run for the 49th congressional district, to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Darrell Issa.