Strong brings 15 years of experience in local government leadership and community engagement to the role, intended to identify systemic bias within the county government.
“I’m honored to be selected for this position and humbled by the process by which my selection was made,” Strong said. “Time for talk has long passed, and time for action is now. It’s time to work with our community to re- imagine and change county government through the lens of equity and justice in all we do.
“I’m excited to have an opportunity to dedicate my time and energy to build greater trust with the community and work with them to create enduring systemic change, root out systemic racism and create equity in all we do,” he said.
The office was established by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in June. More than 20 community groups were invited to take part in the director’s selection process, and 12 ultimately chose to be involved, including representatives from the API Initiative, Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance and Universidad Popular.
“Hiring Andrew to be leader of our new Office of Equity and Racial Justice was a decision made after a thorough process that involved the community in the final decision,” said Nathan Fletcher, chair of the board. “I fully support the decision of our community and look forward to working with Andrew to make San Diego County an equitable, inclusive and just place for all San Diegans.”
The initial review panel was made up of three community members who narrowed the pool of almost 200 applicants to the 10 most qualified candidates.
Seven candidates were invited to interview with the three community panel members and two local subject matter experts in the areas of equity, diversity, inclusion and social justice. This group recommended three finalists. Those finalists met with a cross-representational panel of community stakeholders as well as county executives to determine the final selection.
Strong spent nine years in the U.S. Navy as a hospital corpsman before settling in San Diego. He joined the county in the human resources department and was promoted into key leadership positions, including chief of staff of the Chief Administrative Office, which implements the policy directives of the board and manages the day-to-day operations of the county.
Members of the public can help shape the mission statement, roles and responsibilities of the equity and racial justice office. Two meetings have already taken place and four additional focus group meetings will be scheduled in coming weeks. The county will also soon begin recruiting for two additional positions to support the office.