The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors narrowly voted to delay adopting a policy for the rotation of leadership posts on the board after a debate Tuesday that grew contentious at times.

The current, informal policy has seen past versions of the board elect the vice president as board president and place the outgoing president at the back of the rotation on the five-member board. The longest-serving board member would then move into the vice president position, with newly elected members entering behind those who were continuing or reelected.

But if two or more new members are elected at the same time, as was the case this past election cycle, it could prevent one of them from serving in leadership if they only serve one four-year term.

San Mateo County Supervisors Noelia Corzo and Ray Mueller speak during the Nov. 14, 2023, board meeting regarding a proposed formal leadership rotation policy for board members. As the two newest members of the board, both elected in 2022, there is a chance under the current informal rotation system that one of them might never hold the title of board chairperson. (San Mateo County)

That would mean that if the new policy was adopted, Supervisors Noelia Corzo and Ray Mueller, both elected in 2022, would draw straws in January to determine who goes to fourth in line, which could prevent that person from serving as board president if they aren’t reelected.

Policy over politics

Mueller suggested adopting a style similar to what he said he experienced as a city councilmember in Menlo Park, which had newly elected members quickly escalated to the vice president role.

Supervisors David Canepa and Warren Slocum said they supported the policy being proposed Tuesday as one that took politics out of the process, but Slocum’s comments drew a rebuke from Mueller.

“I think Mr. Canepa’s right when he talks about taking the politics out of it, we’ve already seen it here this morning with Mr. Mueller,” Slocum said, before he was cut off.

“… I’m not going to take disparagement like that anymore. I’m not going to take side comments. I don’t do that to you, so please don’t do it to me.”

Supervisor Ray Mueller

“I take offense to that, Mr. Slocum,” Mueller said, arguing that he was making a policy suggestion, not a political one.

“Thank you for your opinion, appreciate it,” said Slocum sarcastically.

Shortly after the exchange, Mueller said he was done with the side comments that he felt were directed at him.

“I have to say, in my time on this board I’ve taken quite a bit of disparagement,” said Mueller, who objected to accusations of caring more about ambition, or the politics of the decision, rather than the policy.

“And I’m going to start telling my colleagues, I’m not going to take disparagement like that anymore. I’m not going to take side comments. I don’t do that to you, so please don’t do it to me,” he said.

Supervisor Warren Slocum proposed an alternative method of rotating leadership each year by district order, which he argued would remove politics from the process — a suggestion that rankled fellow Supervisor Ray Mueller. (San Mateo County)

‘Let’s all stay focused’

Corzo likewise said she disagreed with a policy that could potentially make the board’s first member who is a woman of color ineligible to serve as president in her first term.

Canepa was undeterred and offered the motion to approve the rotation policy anyway, saying he hoped “that collegiality and sanity prevail, and not one’s ambitions.”

“There’s no need for disparagement like that, Supervisor Canepa,” said Mueller.

“Let’s all stay focused on the issues,” said Supervisor Dave Pine.

Pine offered a replacement motion to work with Mueller to create an alternative policy that could be considered at a later meeting, which was agreed to by a vote of 3-2, thus delaying the implementation of any formal policy for now.