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County Administrator's Office

For Immediate Release

Board of Supervisors approves plan to expand access to and participation on boards and commissions

SANTA ROSA, CA | June 11, 2024

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The Board of Supervisors today unanimously approved a plan to increase participation in County boards and commissions for underserved communities of color, and communities who have not traditionally had access to join these governing bodies. The Board also approved the Office of Equity’s proposed Community Engagement toolkit, which provides recommendations on culturally sensitive community engagement practices to be implemented by County Departments.

“County supervisors rely heavily on the participation of advisory bodies, boards and commissions when making policy decisions. Ensuring these bodies are characteristic of our shared community is important progress,” said David Rabbitt, chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. “Removing barriers to advance engagement is a valuable step that will help us encourage and involve a diverse representation of our community in vital county decisions.”

The Boards and Commissions Plan, which involves 21 strategies in five key strategic areas, calls for the County to conduct an assessment across all Boards and Commissions to develop recommendations on how to improve community member recruitment and selection processes, stipend payment processes, and connectivity to County priorities. It also recommends training for existing Boards and Commission members and assigned County staff on culturally responsive engagement, recruitment, and appointment practices and processes. The plan will be implemented as resources become available. 

“This plan recommends that we assess how current practices create barriers for the participation of underrepresented communities, especially communities of color, in existing boards and commissions,” said Melissa Valle, interim director for the Office of Equity. “With that information, county departments will be able to take the first intentional steps toward removing those barriers and increasing civic participation among local communities whose voices have not been historically included in democratic processes.”

The Board of Supervisors approved the development of a Community Engagement Plan in September 2022. In January 2023, the project began an evaluation of the existing community engagement efforts within County departments, followed by engagement with over 180 County staff and community members across Sonoma County. The resulting draft Community Engagement Plan went before the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in January 2024. At that meeting, the Board of Supervisors requested the plan be adapted to reflect a focus on Boards and Commissions.  

The development of the Community Engagement Plan is also responsive to ongoing community requests for the adoption of consistent and culturally responsive community engagement practices across county departments, especially as disaster strikes local communities.

Media Contact:
Karina Garcia, Bilingual Communications Specialist
(707) 565-1860
575 Administration Drive, Suite 104A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403