Sheriff Greg Munks announced recently that he will be retiring due to health reasons on July 16, with more than two years left of what he said in November 2015 would be his final term as San Mateo County sheriff.
Because he's retiring early, it becomes the job of the county Board of Supervisors to fill the vacancy, and one candidate Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos has been actively campaigning to succeed Mr. Munks since November. He now seems to have an advantage.
The supervisors are likely to decide on July 12 whether to put the matter before voters or to appoint someone to complete Mr. Munks' term that ends in December 2018.
Check AlmanacNews.com for updates.
Mr. Munks, 61, said in a statement that he made this "difficult decision" in recognition of a "not life-threatening" heart condition and the effect it is having on his quality of life and his capacity for full-time work. Mr. Munks is on medical leave, and Mr. Bolanos has been serving as acting sheriff.
Mr. Bolanos, a former police chief in Redwood City and second in command at the Sheriff's Office for nine years, made clear his intention to run for the top job shortly after Mr. Munks announced that he would not be seeking a fourth term.
If the board were to call for an election, Mr. Bolanos would have a six-month head start on any other candidate, Supervisor Dave Pine noted in an interview.
Since the sheriff is an elected official, having voters decide "would normally carry the day," Mr. Pine said. And if the board were to call for an election, it would likely be incorporated into the general election in November, thereby avoiding the cost of a special election, Mr. Pine said.
But with Mr. Bolanos' campaign well underway and the general election imminent, a new candidate would have to hit the ground running. "To mount a (new) campaign in that short period of time raises the question of (whether) an election is really viable," Mr. Pine said.
Supervisor Warren Slocum, after noting that San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer has ended speculation about her interest in running for sheriff, said he was not aware of any potential candidates other than Mr. Bolanos.
The Almanac asked Mr. Pine, Mr. Slocum and Supervisor Don Horsley to comment on the desired qualities of a candidate for sheriff.
Mr. Horsley, a former sheriff in San Mateo County, represents District 3, which includes Atherton, Menlo Park (west of El Camino Real), Portola Valley, Woodside and unincorporated communities in the southern part of the county.
A good candidate should demonstrate leadership ability and have goals in mind for the department, Mr. Horsley said. Also, he said, the candidate should have a committed interest in rehabilitation of prisoners (so they don't end up back in jail) and in providing services for the mentally ill, who make up a significant portion of the inmates.
Integrity, Mr. Slocum said, is key, as is relevant experience, the ability to run a complex organization, being a part of a network of relationships in the law enforcement community, and focusing on reducing recidivism.
The Sheriff's Office, Mr. Pine said, "is one of the largest and most influential departments in the county. You need a very competent manager who can provide leadership to a large and very important group of people. ... (Someone) who sets a direction for law enforcement that keeps the community safe and is sensitive to the needs of the less fortunate people in our county."
The organization's responsibilities are complicated, he said, by an expanded role in day-to-day law enforcement with the inclusion of police responsibilities in Half Moon Bay, San Carlos and Millbrae a city in District 1, which Mr. Pine represents. Sheriff's Office deputies also police Woodside, Portola Valley and nearby unincorporated communities.
Mr. Munks and Mr. Bolanos were together on an April night in 2007 when Las Vegas police and federal agents found them on the premises of a brothel located in an unmarked house in a residential neighborhood of Las Vegas.
The raid on the brothel, referred to by federal agents as Operation Dollhouse, netted seven arrests, though not of customers. Mr. Munks and Mr. Bolanos were detained and questioned, then released. The subsequent investigation looked into whether the prostitutes were working as sex slaves, a Las Vegas police officer said at the time.
With the leadership of the Sheriff's Office in transition, the Almanac asked about morale among the deputies.
If there were a morale problem, there would also be an attrition problem, Mr. Horsley said. "I don't see that," he said. While the department staff is not at full strength, recruiting from surrounding police departments is ongoing, "and (the Sheriff's Office) does not lose people to other agencies," he said.
Mr. Slocum said he's talked with deputies and the department rank and file. "I didn't get a sense that things were at all rocky" either before or after Mr. Munks announced his plans to retire, he said. "From what I can see, it seems OK," he said. "My sense is that the morale is alright."
Mr. Pine said he had no comment in that he was not close enough to the department to have an informed opinion.