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Supervisors should wait for Kuehl and Solis on key appointments

Supervisors should wait for Kuehl and Solis on key appointments
Mark Ridley-Thomas is seen talking to Zev Yaroslavsky, left, during a L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting in June. Yaroslavsky will be succeeded by Sheila Kuehl. (Los Angeles Times)

On Tuesday, when government offices around the nation were closed in honor of Veterans Day, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors met in closed session to consider candidates for two key executive positions: director of public health and executive director of the Office of Child Protection. Meanwhile, they are continuing their search for a new chief executive officer.

Although it was a remarkable display of industriousness, the supervisors should have taken the day off like everyone else in their offices. Two of the five members are leaving the board in less than three weeks, and their successors are known: Sheila Kuehl was elected last week to succeed Zev Yaroslavsky, and Hilda Solis was elected all the way back in June to replace Gloria Molina. It is the incoming supervisors, and not the termed-out incumbents, who should select top staff.

These are not small decisions. The CEO virtually runs the county, preparing what was this year a $26.1-billion budget and overseeing thousands of employees delivering services to 10 million county residents. The successor to William T Fujioka must have the confidence of all five supervisors to whom he will report, not merely three of them plus two who will be gone.

There is a serious question as to whether the CEO position will even exist, given that two holdover supervisors, Michael D. Antonovich and Mark Ridley-Thomas, have called for eliminating the post and reverting to the pre-2007 model — a chief administrator with less authority. That decision, obviously, is also one that belongs to Kuehl and Solis and not Yaroslavsky or Molina.

As for the chief of the Office of Child Protection, it is a new position overseeing a still nonexistent office. Whoever is to hold the job will report directly to the Board of Supervisors and must deftly navigate through unexplored political territory. The new supervisors, clearly, should be in on that appointment too.

Of course, the county's business cannot come to a standstill due to the impending change in board personnel, and some effort at continuity makes sense. But the time to ensure continuity had already slipped away in the weeks before the election, as this page noted in September.

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It is now time to ensure that the newly elected leaders are able to exercise the power that voters vested in them.

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