The seal in the lobby of the County Administration Center is inscribed with the words, “Good government demands the intelligent interest of every citizen.” Public participation in government is at the heart of democracy. Service on a citizen advisory board, commission or committee (BCC) affords citizens an excellent opportunity to become engaged with their government and provide judicious advice and recommendations from a citizen perspective to the Board of Supervisors on a specific public issue.
San Diego County enlists over 100 citizen boards, committees, commissions and task forces to advise the Board of Supervisors and County staff on issues of policy, make decisions on behalf of the Board, and to serve as links to the community.
BCCs range from short-term task-oriented groups whose purpose may be, for example to produce a single report, to long-term standing committees with broad based jurisdictional responsibilities such as the Property Tax Assessment Appeals Hearing Board where members serve three year terms and make decisions regarding property values on behalf of the Board of Supervisors.
There are committees to accommodate just about every interest from health issues to social issues, criminal justice, elderly, planning and land use, parks, libraries, housing and human relations.
Why do citizens volunteer to serve on boards, committees or commissions?
The reasons people volunteer for service are as varied as the people themselves. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Fulfilling a civic responsibility.
- Desire to be involved and give something back to the community.
- A desire to help shape policy.
- Desire to donate one’s professional skills.
Why I serve on a board, commission or committee:
"Our goal in serving the public is to help the permitted community achieve compliance to APCD rules."
"As a First 5 Commissioner, I appreciate the opportunity to expand my advocacy for children and to help achieve the Commission’s vision that all children ages 0 to 5 are healthy, are loved and nurtured, and enter school as active learners."
"Our goal is transforming disabilities into possibilities."
"Foster Care Services gives foster parents a voice at the table. We share with the Agency, and the Agency shares new information about foster care with us."
How can I serve on a County Board, Committee or Commission?
Look at the Fact Sheet. Be sure that what you’re getting involved in is something that interests you. The Clerk of the Board maintains Fact Sheets for each BCC. The Fact Sheets describe the legal authority for the BCC, the terms of members, when they meet and provide the name of a contact person. Look over the fact sheets and make sure you meet the qualifications and that you can meet the time commitment described. Approximately 100 Fact Sheets are posted on the web site – browse through them and find one that is of interest to you.
Ideal candidates for appointment have:
- The necessary expertise to accomplish the board’s objectives.
- A reputation for integrity and community service.
- An interest or experience in the board’s area of service.
- Sufficient time available to prepare for and attend meetings.
As a member of a BCC, you will be expected to:
- Be on time for meetings.
- Be familiar with the issues: Review background information, the agenda and previous minutes before each meeting.
- Participate in discussions and work assignments.
- Be courteous to each other and to members of the public.
- Be open and responsive to questions and concerns.
In addition, certain BCCs may require you to:
- Attend a two hour ethics training every two years.
- File a Statement of Economic Interest Form (Form 700).
Call the contact. In many cases, the name and number of the contact is listed on the Fact Sheet, but when it is not, you can call the Clerk of the Board office at (619) 531-5600 and obtain that information. Ask about the time and place of meetings and the activities that take place outside the formal meetings.
Ask the contact about vacancies and the process of applying to be a member. In most cases you fill out an application which is available online. Some BCCs have a unique application. Also ask the contact about the requirements for members – there may be residency requirements or professional licenses or experience required. Ask the contact what qualities are desired in a candidate for appointment and think about whether you possess those qualities.
Fill out an application. Most boards, committees and commissions are advisory in nature allowing you to fill out the standard application available from the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors. The application requests information about your areas of interest in County government and your experience in public service. You will be asked about your occupational experience and any special knowledge you possess.
An application for a County Board, Commission, or Committee is a public record subject to disclosure upon request. Personal information such as your home address and telephone number may be withheld from public view as allowed by law.
Some BCC’s are considered “decision-making.” Decision-making BCC’s, such as the Property Tax Assessment Appeals Boards, Noise Control Hearing Board, Planning Commission, Air Pollution Control District Hearing Board make decisions on behalf of the Board of Supervisors. If you apply to a decision-making board you will be required to provide evidence of your qualifications and fill out an Incompatible Activities Statement before your application is submitted for consideration by the Board.
Contact the nominating party and tell them of your interest. In most cases, the nominating party is the Board of Supervisors – see the Fact Sheet and call the contact to confirm this. The Registrar of Voters can provide you with the name of your Supervisor. In many cases, the Supervisor’s Office will ask you to provide them with your application, if not, provide it to the Clerk of the Board and we will forward it to the appropriate supervisor.
Some of the qualities that may be considered in evaluating nominees include:
- Background experience and knowledge of the position.
- Contributive potential – ability to communicate, desire to perform public service, desire to participate in the decision-making process.
- Past or present leadership experience and participation in community service.
You may be asked to discuss your interest and qualifications in person.
Should you be selected by a Supervisor for service on a board, commission or committee, your candidacy will be voted on by the Board of Supervisors in a public meeting.
Upon your appointment, the Clerk of the Board will send you an appointment certificate and a letter confirming your appointment, a copy of which will also be sent to our contact with the BCC. A representative of the board, committee or commission will then contact you.
Good luck and thank you for your interest in giving back to your community!
New Board Members being sworn in to serve on the Commission on the Status of Women.
“When women speak up, things change, not only for themselves but for their families and their communities.” ~Board Members, Commission on the Status of Women