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Supervisor Adam Hill scales back duties to address depression 

Embattled San Luis Obispo County 3rd District Supervisor Adam Hill announced he's taking time off from his professional duties to address a "lifelong" struggle with depression.

click to enlarge TAKING TIME Amid controversy over his behavior, SLO County Supervisor Adam Hill is taking time off to address what he called a "lifelong" struggle with depression. - FILE PHOTO BY PETER JOHNSON
  • File Photo By Peter Johnson
  • TAKING TIME Amid controversy over his behavior, SLO County Supervisor Adam Hill is taking time off to address what he called a "lifelong" struggle with depression.

"I'll be taking some time to reflect on repairing my relationships with people I love and associate with," Hill announced in a statement on Feb. 9. "I will maintain as much of a public schedule as possible while getting myself in better shape emotionally and physically."

Hill said he doesn't plan to resign. But the extent to which Hill will be scaling back his supervisorial work is unclear. While he said he's still "trying to be responsive" to constituents, Hill didn't say whether he'd attend the next Board of Supervisors meeting on Feb. 20.

"I don't have any plans to go or not go," Hill told New Times. "I don't want to go back until I feel I have at least some better methods of coping so I don't fall into patterns that I'm familiar with."

Government code does not limit the number of excused absences a supervisor can have, according to the County Counsel's Office.

Hill's decision came amid controversy—three days after one of his constituents, Pismo Beach resident Mark Burnes, made public a Facebook message from Hill telling him to "fuck off."

Burnes read the message aloud to the Board of Supervisors during a public comment period on Feb. 6. Responding to a letter by Burnes published in The Tribune on Feb. 3 in which he briefly criticized Hill's "antics and attitude," Hill wrote, "thanks but no thanks for your stupid letter" and added Burnes was, "all talk, no balls."

The spat was just the latest example of Hill sparring with constituents. In November, Hill mocked SLO resident Keith Gurnee, a longtime critic, for having a "bad crush" on him.

In the Feb. 9 statement announcing his leave, Hill said his depression "manifests itself in heightened states of anger and anguish" and that it "expresses itself bluntly in frustrated outbursts." He told New Times he's seeking counseling and that he's resisted professional help during his nine-year tenure as supervisor in part due to the stigma of "weakness" around mental illness in politics.

"It's hard to address these things when you're a public figure," Hill said. "I probably let that be an obstacle that it doesn't need to be."

When asked if the recent blowup with Burnes served as a wake-up call for him, Hill replied that the call was "a long time coming."

"I would say the wake-up calls have probably been going on for a while. I've been hitting snooze for years," he said. "It's not like this is the first time I've cursed somebody out or been short about something. ... You've got to take responsibility for yourself, and that's kind of where I'm at."

Hill noted that his outbursts are often tied to his frustrations about what he feels is a lack of action by the board and the community on issues like homelessness, poverty, and helping the working class.

"I just know I need to figure out a better way to represent those concerns," he said. "You can't make people care about things you care about by yelling at them or trying to shame them."

In response to revelations about Hill's message to Burnes, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 on Feb. 6 to ask its staff to write a code of conduct policy for the county supervisors. Δ


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