Vote Smith for county sheriff: Editorial

For 16 years, Laurie Smith has served as Santa Clara County sheriff. She is seeking another four-year term in office on the June 3 ballot.

Smith faces a credible challenger in Kevin Jensen. He recently retired from the Sheriff’s Office but previously worked in virtually every department. Jensen’s frontline experience and reputation for fairness among the rank and file make him a worthy successor.

Smith has built 16 years of name recognition among voters, and the fact that she’s a woman has always resonated with county voters’ progressive attitudes. In all likelihood, she will be re-elected next month.

But is this a good thing?

We believe that it is. Smith has overseen major transitions in the office, which reassumed responsibility for managing the jails a few years ago. There is a significant realignment underway as convicts who were once sent to state prison are now being transferred to county jails. So far, she’s managed the shuffle to avoid jail overcrowding effectively while not releasing any prisoners prematurely. The transition, she said, saves taxpayers $10 million a year. Based on her experience, she is best suited to continue the oversight.

Smith touts the office’s improved fingerprinting process, which leads to identifying suspects quickly. She cites low crime rates in all of the communities for which the Sheriff’s Office contracts, including Los Altos Hills.

We’re troubled that this time around, Smith has little support among her deputies – she attributes this to the change in leadership in the deputy sheriff’s association and the spread of negative, false information about her. Still, these are people she works with every day. Smith vows to win back their trust.

We’ll see. Smith has not disappointed us in her tenure as sheriff. But it’s obvious that she has disappointed the very people who work for her. Instead of dismissing their criticism, she must be more open to hearing their concerns and improving her performance. We expect that she will rise to the occasion. We’re endorsing Laurie Smith for a fifth term.

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