In advance of the June 3 election, the Town Crier interviewed the two candidates on the ballot for Santa Clara County sheriff – current Sheriff Laurie Smith and challenger Kevin Jensen. Smith’s responses are below, and Jensen’s will be published in the May 14 Town Crier.
Residents of Los Altos Hills, Cupertino, Saratoga and unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County will vote for sheriff on the June 3 ballot. There are no term limits for the office.
The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office manages 1,725 personnel with a budget that exceeds $300 million. According to the Sheriff Office’s mission statement, among the agency’s responsibilities are providing neighborhood patrol services to residents; organizing security at all Superior Courts in the county; enforcing warrants, evictions, restraining orders and money collection; managing a county jail population that averages 4,000 inmates; and investigating criminal activity against persons and property.
• Santa Clara County sheriff, 1998-present
• Santa Clara County assistant sheriff, 1990-1998
• Santa Clara County sheriff watch commander, 1976-1990
• Santa Clara County deputy sheriff matron, 1973-1976
Year elected to office: 1998
Donations received for campaign in 2014 (through March 17): $27,005
Cash available: $59,059.66
Local endorsements: Los Altos City Councilwoman Val Carpenter; Los Altos Hills Mayor John Radford; and Los Altos Hills City Councilmembers Courtenay C. Corrigan, John Harpootlian, Rich Larsen and Gary Waldeck
Why are you running for re-election?
“I have just great faith and confidence in the Sheriff’s Office,” Smith said. “Together we’re continually doing great work.”
Smith highlighted the Sheriff’s Office’s work to reduce recidivism rates in county jails after the enactment of new Public Safety Realignments in California (state laws AB 109 and AB 117) in 2011. Under the new laws, nonviolent, nonserious, nonsex offenders are required to serve time in county jails instead of state prisons.
Responding to the influx of inmates in Santa Clara County jails, Smith said the Sheriff’s Office opened a re-entry resource center with mental-health services for released inmates in a building across from the jail.
What is the most important responsibility of the Sheriff’s Office?
“We provide a myriad of public safety services that contribute to the continuation of a high quality of life,” Smith said.
Smith said her office was not only responsible for law enforcement services like neighborhood patrols, but also for judicial protection, services to the courts, operation of the Coroner’s Office and management of jails and civil actions like evictions, selling property and seizing money to satisfy civil judgments.
What leadership and financial management skills are important for the job?
Smith said leadership is key and added that she’s worked hard to develop trust with the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and other county entities during her tenure. Since the Sheriff’s Office reassumed responsibility for the Coroner’s Office and the jails after losing control of the agencies before her tenure, Smith said her office has been financially responsible.
“First of all, we are entrusted with the public’s money,” she said. “We want to make sure that we’re fiscally responsible. We’ve never been over budget since I’ve been sheriff or deputy sheriff.”
According to Smith, her office has saved more than $10 million annually in the jails budget by eliminating overhead and duplicate services.
“Leadership isn’t measured by making speeches and being liked, but by the measurements of what you’ve done,” she said.
What are your most significant accomplishments during your service as the county sheriff?
• Taking over the jails and providing better management.
• Strengthening law enforcement training in partnership with community colleges.
• Providing quality violent crime and property crime prevention at a reasonable cost.
What are the most significant challenges the Sheriff’s Office faces?
“We’re looking at some areas of the county with an increase in property crimes and gangs,” Smith said. “The thing that is most important is protecting our kids … keeping them out of gangs, off drugs and in schools.”
Citing the rise in crime and population growth in San Jose, Smith noted that collaboration with nonprofit agencies and service providers in the greater community is important. In particular, training law enforcement with skills necessary to address those with mental-health issues is increasing in importance.
“Mental-health patients have very often become a law enforcement issue,” she said.
Statistics show that residents of Los Altos Hills cite exemplary services from the Sheriff’s Office. What will you do to continue providing this quality of service to residents?
“There has been a rash increase in burglaries (in Los Altos Hills), but you also see the arrests,” said Smith of the Sheriff Office’s continued efforts to provide quality services that offer “value for the dollar.”
Smith said she encourages neighbors to continue to be good partners with the Sheriff’s Office in crime prevention.