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Nora Vargas Elected 2023-24 SANDAG Chair

GOVERNMENT: Supervisor Pledges to Bring ‘Unity,’ Advance Regional Priorities

San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Nora Vargas has been elected to lead the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) as chair for 2023-2024. With the election, which took place on Dec. 13, Vargas succeeds now State Senator Catherine Blakespear, who served in the role in 2022.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, who also serves on the SANDAG board, made the nomination.

Nora Vargas
Supervisor
San Diego County

With her election, Vargas, a Democrat, became the first Latina to lead SANDAG. In her previous role as chair of SANDAG’s Transportation Committee, Vargas was a strong supporter of sustainable and regional planning – and persistently advocated for a more inclusive and accessible transportation system in the region.

“I appreciate the support of my colleagues on the Board and feel honored to assume this role,” Vargas said. “My vision is to empower and uplift community members to envision their communities with the investments that support the wellbeing of everyone. This includes a holistic approach to bringing mobility options to our region that are driven by new technology and stimulate economic prosperity.”

“Now more than ever, we need to step up and work together to accomplish this,” Vargas also said. “With my colleagues’ support, I will fiercely lead SANDAG with the same spirit that has preceded my work – unity, and partnership. Our communities deserve it.”

One of Vargas’s major contributions while on the Transportation Committee was the championing of the Youth Opportunity Passes Program launched in early 2022. That program removed economic barriers for youth, increased ridership and moved our county forward in reaching climate goals.

After her election, Vargas vowed to continue this work by bringing unity to SANDAG and making sure that every community has access to safe, walkable, bikeable streets, various mobility options and affordable transportation and housing options.

In a written statement following her election, Vargas said that her SANDAG priorities for 2023 include:

“Unity and Equity: To bring together the 18 cities and tribal lands within the county and promote and foster a collaborative working environment so that the region can thrive and not just survive.

Youth Opportunity Pass Expansion: Secure the funding and advocate for the expansion of the Youth Opportunity Passes to 24 years and under. This will increase ridership among the age groups, create long-time riders and improve our environment by helping the region reach its climate goals.

Uplift Infrastructure Projects & Economic Opportunities for the Region: Advancing SANDAG as an economic driver will be key to our region’s economy and environment. The opening of the East Otay Mesa Port of entry and stabilization of the Lossan Del Mar Bluffs will continue to enhance regional mobility and facilitate economic growth.”

In addition to serving as District 1 supervisor and now chair for SANDAG, Vargas, a University of San Francisco grad, is the County’s representative to the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) and National Association of Counties (NACo). In February 2022, she was appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom to serve on the California Air Resources Board.

She also currently serves as a Board Member for the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) and is an Advisory Board for Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE).

A long-time healthcare and education advocate, Vargas was raised in both San Diego and Tijuana and attended Montgomery High in South San Diego. She was sworn in as a San Diego County supervisor on January 4, 2021, as the first Latina, the first immigrant, the first binational and the first woman of color in the history of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG)

FOUNDED: 1980
DIRECTOR: Hassan Ikhrata
HEADQUARTERS: San Diego
BOARD MEMBERS: 18
BUDGET: $1.04 billion (FY ’23)
WEBSITE: sandag.org
CONTACT: (619) 699-1900
NOTABLE: SANDAG is both a metropolitan planning association and a council of local governments focused on San Diego County transportation and infrastructure projects.

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