On Jan. 8, Jeff Hewitt was sworn in to his new seat on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in California, a ceremonial beginning to his term of office conducted by Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark. After being sworn in, Hewitt joined the board in conducting its business of the day addressing land use decisions.
“I’ve had the honor of serving with Jeff Hewitt,” Sarwark said of his Libertarian National Committee colleague. “He’s brought a vision of how people can work together even if they don’t agree … and you can sit down and build coalitions to work together to solve the problems we have as a party.”
Hewitt has been applying Libertarian solutions to public policy for years in his role as mayor of Calimesa, as well as in his earlier positions on the city council and planning commission. Now he’ll have the chance to show on a much larger scale just how effective Libertarian ideas are. Riverside County has a population of nearly 2.5 million people, which is larger than the populations of 15 different states.
Decisions made by the Board of Supervisors will have far-reaching consequences, and Hewitt will now have one of the board’s five votes — as well as plenty of opportunities to sway other supervisors toward sensible policy outcomes.
“I will guarantee you I’ll always give you 100 percent, and I guarantee you I’ll always give you the truth from the way I see it,” Hewitt said. “And I’ll work that way with my colleagues.”
As mayor of Calimesa, Hewitt successfully ended the city’s CalFire contract, which had saddled the city with bankruptcy-inducing pension obligations. Hewitt instituted a city fire department that costs less and provides more protection, replacing the firefighters’ unaffordable defined-benefit pensions with 401(k) funds, which are common in the private sector. This change also eliminated two layers of administrative costs at the county and state levels.
“There’s not a single government that doesn’t see that we’ve made pension obligations, we’ve made budgetary obligations that are not sustainable,” Sarwark said. “Everybody knows the problem, but Jeff is one of maybe a handful of people around the country who’s set aside biases, set aside people’s disposition to oppose, and brought people together to actually do something about the problem, to put his government on a path that’s sustainable, to make the hard choices, to bring people together.”
Hewitt campaigned on doing for Riverside County what he had done for Calimesa. He was able to win despite massive spending by government employee unions, and earned endorsements from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and largest local newspaper the Press-Enterprise.
“Hewitt is not just a talker,” the Press-Enterprise endorsement said. “He gets things done. One of his most notable successes as mayor of Calimesa was working to get his city out from under Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department, saving the citizens money without compromising public safety. He’ll bring that same approach to Riverside County. Recognizing the folly in contracting with a high-cost consulting firm to find efficiencies in county government, Hewitt suggests working with department heads and county staff to do so instead. It’s a common-sense perspective the board could desperately use.”
Hewitt’s victory in California demonstrates that dedicated public service and strategic campaigning can bring Libertarian ideas into action — an inspiration that can be replicated throughout the country.
Libertarian perspectives on public policy issues are crucial to reducing the size, power, and purview of government at every level. After the United States entered its third week of the partial federal government shutdown, thanks to an impasse on funding for President Donald Trump’s destructive pet project of building a border wall, Trump addressed the nation on Jan. 8 by claiming that immigration constitutes a national emergency.
But President Trump is trying to manufacture a national crisis where there is none. He’s doing this for his own political reasons: to stay in power.
That love of power is accompanied by a callous disregard for the countless lives that destructive policies can ruin. Only by following Riverside County’s example — by electing fiscally responsible and socially accepting Libertarian Party leaders like Jeff Hewitt — can we stem the tide of government overreach and allow people to live their lives freely.