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SANDAG Honors Chair Steve Vaus at Last Board of Directors Meeting of the Year

December 18, 2020 -- Poway Mayor Served as 2019–2020 Chair

After two years as Chair of the SANDAG Board of Directors, Poway Mayor Steve Vaus presided over his last meeting on Friday and passed the gavel to Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear.

Vaus joined the SANDAG Board of Directors in January 2015 and was elected to serve as Chair of the Board in December 2018.

During his two-year term as Chair, Vaus led SANDAG through the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and was instrumental in advancing regionally significant initiatives.

“It has been an honor to lead this agency and sit at the head of the SANDAG dais with the mayors, city councilmembers, and county supervisors elected by residents of this county,” said Vaus. “The decisions we make when we take off our local hats and put on our regional hats impact this region for generations to come.”

“I’m extremely proud of how steadfast my colleagues have been in sharing their opinions and pursuing what is right for the region,” he added. “I thank each of them for contributing their voices and votes as we grappled with project financing, planning, housing issues, and the pandemic. Their support is priceless.”

At Friday’s SANDAG meeting—Vaus’s last meeting as Chair—Vaus reflected on his term and welcomed Blakespear to the role.

“My term as Chair has not been at all what I expected. I don't think life for any of us has been what we expected, particularly in the last year,” said Vaus. “It hasn't been dull—sometimes it was like an elegant dance on this board, other times it was like mud wrestling—but we got a lot done. I think we took good care of the region and I know that is going to continue [when Blakespear is Chair in January].”

During the last two years, Blakespear and Vaus worked together on a number of issues, including San Diego Forward: The 2021 Regional Plan, the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, and Airport Connectivity.

“It has been a privilege and a pleasure to work alongside Chair Vaus. He is a true partner, and together, we strove to put what was best for the region ahead of all other concerns,” said Blakespear.

Through Vaus’s steady-handed leadership amid the pandemic, SANDAG swiftly upgraded its technology to allow employees to work remotely, to continue its work building and planning critical capital projects, and to develop strategies to support San Diego regional communities.

Vaus continued to lead Board of Directors meetings in a virtual setting as every government agency learned new communication methods on the fly. 

“We kept the projects moving, you kept us afloat,” said SANDAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata to Vaus during the meeting. “I appreciate that you allowed our team to help San Diegans dream big.”

Earlier in the spring, Vaus invited leading County Public Health officials to provide an update about the crisis response to the SANDAG Board of Directors. 

“SANDAG is in a unique position as the regional government agency to bring together elected leaders from every corner of the county to discuss a variety of topics,” said Vaus. “The last ten months have been tough on our residents and our businesses. It was important to me to utilize our platform to bring our region’s top health and medical professionals so we could work collaboratively to guide our communities as we responded to the COVID-19 crisis.”

That regional approach is why Vaus took the lead in advancing the development of the future third border crossing with Mexico at Otay Mesa East, which will facilitate goods movement between Mexico and California. Vaus led discussions with officials on both sides of the border to help move the project forward. He traveled to Washington, D.C. in 2019 to meet with officials from the State Department and Mexican Embassy to strengthen SANDAG’s relationship with these crucial partners.

Vaus also traveled to Mexico City to advance this important project, meeting with high-ranking officials from Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Relations and Ministry of Communications and Transportation. In 2018, Vaus met with Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Relations, the Honorable Luis Videgaray, at SANDAG, marking the first time one of the highest foreign envoys from Mexico visited the regional agency.

In January, under Vaus’s leadership, SANDAG established a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Navy to revitalize the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) site in San Diego’s Midway District. The revitalization could also provide an opportunity for a Central Mobility Hub, a state-of-the-art transportation center that would bring together transportation networks from every part of the region, providing a much-needed direct connection to San Diego International Airport.

During Vaus’s chairmanship, SANDAG has continued work on the largest undertaking in the San Diego region’s history with the Mid-Coast Trolley project. When complete, the project will extend the UC San Diego Blue Line from Old Town to the University City community, serving UC San Diego. Riders will be able to have a one-seat ride from the border to UC San Diego.

Over the last year, SANDAG has also advanced critical efforts to stabilize the Del Mar Bluffs. Construction on Phase 4 will wrap up at the end of the year, and planning efforts for phases 5 and 6 are underway.

Through the leadership of the board with Vaus at the helm, SANDAG has also continued work on the 2021 Regional Plan, which will be presented to the board in the fall of 2021.

Several SANDAG Board Members expressed their gratitude for Vaus’s leadership during his two-year term.

'I'm really proud of the job you did; I'm proud to call you a colleague and friend,” said County Supervisor Jim Desmond. “Congratulations on a great two years as being Chair. I look forward to your input and continued steadiness on the SANDAG Board.”

Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas added, “It's been a real pleasure working for you and getting to know you better. I love your style of building consensus; you've been such a great leader.”

“I really appreciate everything that you've done, and I'm really excited to see Catherine [Blakespear] move forward as Chair,” said San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones. “I believe that Mayor Blakespear has done a great job and you two have been a great team.”

In addition to serving on the SANDAG Board, Vaus has also served as Chair of the Airport Connectivity Subcommittee and the Public Safety Committee. Vaus was elected Mayor of Poway in 2014 and re-elected in 2018. Prior to being the city’s Mayor, he served as a member of the Poway City Council.
Vaus owns and operates a production company in Poway and has spent many years serving charitable organizations benefiting children in need. Vaus is America’s only Grammy-award-winning Mayor and has won multiple Emmy Awards.

Project Manager(s)

For media inquiries, please contact the SANDAG Public Information Office at (619) 699-1950 or pio@sandag.org.