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Sacramento and Riverside Make Election History, First Black Elected Auditor

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By Cheryl Brown

History was made in Riverside Tuesday when Robert Byrd, was sworn in as the Auditor-Controller in the second largest county in the continental United States.

He breaks the color barrier as the first Black to be elected to a high ranking county position. Also sworn-in was Marion Ashley the newest Supervisor in the county.

Ashley was supported by a large contingency of African American in Perris and Moreno Valley and many believe now their voices will be heard, and many needs will be met in these areas of the region.

Byrd, has served, as the Assistant Auditor-Controller for Riverside for the past three years and with a short staff has had to take on the duties of three of the four departments he supervised. He believes in order to meet the challenges of government he will need to use technology to bridge the ever growing gap.

"I will be involved in shaping the County’s information system future," he wrote in his goals. He becomes the first African American elected to a countywide office. The closest any other African American has come was Frank Johnson who was head of the Election Department.

In Sacramento Governor Gray Davis was installed for his second term. His ceremony was witnessed by nearly 2,000 people.

In one of the closest races in the history of the Controller’s office, Steve Westly was installed in the Assembly Chamber with his wife Anita Eu holding the Bible, as his mother Sylvia Elliott, looked on.

Speaker of the House Herb Wesson administered the oath.

Wesson was very busy. He issued the oath to many of the statewide office holders. Others installed were Attorney General Bill Lockyer, and Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante.

In brief acceptance speeches both Davis and Westly praised California for its creativity.

Both said the state would have challenges with the budget deficit. But they were optimistic that California, the fifth largest economy in the world, would tighten its belt and emerge tougher and stronger.

Davis said we have to, "tighten our belts without hardening our hearts."

Davis promises to reduce the size of government by not filling positions and putting a freeze on hiring and proposing a total of $10 billion in cuts in the $34.8 billion shortfall. He called on Washington to act in the case of unemployed workers.

He proposed the creation of 500,000 new jobs in 4 years, new public works programs and more support for small business development. "I want to make our state small business friendly and strengthen the small business environment," said Davis.

In his quest to do away with feast and famine budgets he announced he would do more than patch over the problems. Other areas of growth he envisions are the cell technology industry, and technology.

Former internet eBay company officer, Westly's three-point plan mirrors the Governor’s. He vows to help solve the budget deficient and avoid shortfalls in the future. He plans to rebuild schools, roads and improve housing and wants a more effective and customer driven department.

As Controller he will use the power of the office to move the state forward. "It is not a choice, it is our destiny. We will restore the state’s fiscal health and build tomorrow’s California.”

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