Almanac

News - November 10, 2010

Don Horsley returns to county government

by Dave Boyce

Don Horsley has a new job in his old workplace. With his election to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisor for District 3 — an area that includes Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside and Portola Valley — he'll have an office on the first floor of the County Center building in Redwood City.

Between June 1993 and January 2007, he was county sheriff and had an office on the third floor. (On retiring, he ran for the board of the Sequoia Healthcare District and is the current board president with an office nearby on Veterans Boulevard.)

Mr. Horsley won 56.5 percent of the vote, defeating April Vargas 73,234 to 56,391. While candidates must live in the district, they run county-wide.

As the winner, Mr. Horsley now has the opportunity to make good on his ideas for addressing the $150 million structural deficit the county is facing in 2014 if something isn't done to align expenses with income.

His personal expenses will not be aligned with his income as supervisor, since he has agreed to take just $1 a year, instead of the usual annual salary of $114,000. But then he is a retired California sheriff living on a retired California sheriff's pension.

The county has been borrowing from its reserves for the past three years. The 2010-11 fiscal year county budget projects spending $1.8 billion, including $90 million from reserves.

In the run-up to the election, Mr. Horsley said in an interview that he would focus his cost-cutting attention in the areas of public safety and health care — reflective of his experience.

"I'm aware of what the community's problems are," he said when asked before the election why voters should choose him. "I'm aware of how to continue to make this county the best it can possibly be."

Among his cost-saving ideas:

• Have jailed pregnant women sent home where they could be electronically monitored.

• Evaluate patients now in skilled nursing care for less expensive assisted living, and ask nonprofit hospitals to raise their intake of charity cases. Nationally, he said, about 6 percent of patients at nonprofit hospitals are charity cases, compared to just 2 percent locally.

• Consolidate county firefighting agencies to maintain the number of actual firefighters but lower the number of managers — a savings of about $8 million, he said.

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