About Me

My wife Elaine and I reside in Emerald Hills, in the hills above Redwood City. Our son Matt works as a Deputy Sheriff with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department. I also have two other adult children, Christine who is a legal secretary in Redwood City and David who is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California at Davis. David is married to Meng Hsuing Kiang and they have a daughter, my granddaughter, Juliette.

I was born in San Francisco but moved to Daly City where I attended Westmoor High and later attended and graduated with Honors from San Francisco State University in 1969.

My mother worked as a bookkeeper for the Jewish Welfare Association in San Francisco and my father worked as a laborer in the San Francisco produce markets and was an active member in his local union.

When I was 12 years old, my father suffered a debilitating stroke and, for the rest of his life, was disabled. It was a challenge for our family. I helped by finding odd jobs while I was attending school including a paper route and working at a gas station. While attending San Francisco State, I decided to apply to become a police officer and after my training, worked in the Daly City Police Department. After I earned a Bachelors degree from State, I continued my education and obtained a secondary teaching credential.

After graduation from College, I worked as a juvenile counselor with the San Mateo County Probation Department and as a classroom teacher for middle school students. I decided to dedicate myself to a career in law enforcement and early in my career worked for the City of Pacifica before joining the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.

Prior Service

In 1972, I began my career in the Sheriff's Office as a patrol deputy in the City of East Palo Alto. I rose through the ranks and spent extensive time in upgrading the training of deputy sheriffs and correctional officers. Later in my career, I was instrumental in the planning and building of a new correctional facility which resulted in changing the way the County Correctional system was managed. The new facility included mental and medical healthcare facilities and I was responsible for the adoption of a new management system, called direct supervision where deputies and correctional officers worked in contact with detainees, which resulted in a sharp, near total, decrease in incidents of violence.

I ran for San Mateo County Sheriff in 1993 because I saw the need for innovative leadership, modernization and upgrading the tools for law enforcement officers. I was the outsider but won a hard fought campaign.

When I ran for Sheriff, the City of East Palo Alto had been dubbed the murder capital of the United States. I campaigned on the commitment to help that City combat violence, drug dealing and gangs. After I was elected, I kept that commitment and organized a multi-jurisdictional law enforcement effort that helped that City reduce the number of homicides dramatically. The Sheriff's Office, under my leadership, continued to assist the City with patrol deputies and investigators for my entire term of office.

I served as the elected Sheriff for nearly 14 years. During that time, I initiated an extensive number of innovative programs to make our community safer. I worked with other police agencies and the Board of Supervisors to establish a special gang investigative unit to identify and target for arrest violent gang members. The result of those efforts is that San Mateo County has the lowest homicide rate in the State according to the District Attorney's Office.

Working with the Board of Supervisors and other city police agencies, I oversaw the building of energy efficient and technologically advanced crime lab that serves all of the law enforcement agencies in San Mateo County as well as agencies is adjoining counties with the latest in crime detection and identification technology.

I am proud of a number of accomplishments while I was Sheriff including the creation of the Sheriff's Activities League to help kids become successful in school, designed to keep at risk kids out of gangs; the advancement of qualified women and ethnic officers in the Sheriff's Department into positions of leadership; and the North Fair Oaks Community Festival. The North Fair Oaks festival is held annually in August in the unincorporated area of Redwood City and is a celebration of the diversity of the community. The Festival draws between 20,000 and 30,000 people to this very diverse community.

After leaving the Sheriff's Office, I was elected to the Sequoia Healthcare District and I served as the Board President until my election to the Board of Supervisors. Under my leadership the District increased funding to the North Fair Oaks Clinic and the Community Grant Program. In fact, total grants for health related programs and non-profit organizations for this year to the community and Sequoia Hospital amount to over $8 million dollars.

Priorities and Accomplishments

Most recently, after hearing about the closure of the Coastside Family Medical Clinic in Half Moon Bay which provided services to over 8,000 patients, the Healthcare Board at my initiation voted to schedule a study session on ways to assist the Coastside with accessible primary health care. One solution that the Board has agreed to study is the possible annexation of the San Mateo Coastside into the District.

Another project of the Sequoia HSD is the funding of school nurses for school districts in our boundaries. We started with grants of $100K to Sequoia HSD and $100K to Redwood ESD. Then we added three other school districts, San Carlos, Portola Valley and Belmont Redwood Shores for a total of $350,000. This past year, the Board approved an additional $1.5 million annually for school based health programs in Sequoia Union High School District, Redwood City Elementary, San Carlos Elementary and Belmont Redwood Shores. The grant pays for additional school nurses, physical ed teachers, health educators, wellness coordinators and provides some training money and money for school gardens. The program is intended to improve the health and wellness of students so they are better able to learn. 

I have devoted my life to public service in San Mateo County from law enforcement to elected Sheriff to elected member of the Healthcare District Board. I am proud and honored to again serve the entire County as a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

Photo of Supervisor Don Horsley
Don Horsley