Updated: Nov. 7, 10:06 p.m.
He's back—for a job he's done before.
State senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) announced Sunday that he would be running for Santa Clara County supervisor, a position he held from 1997 to 2000. Simitian's eight-year term in the state Senate will end in 2012.
The senator, who lives in Palo Alto, said he spent many months talking with his family before making the decision to run for the District 5 seat.
"I have found my time in Sacramento tremendously satisfying, but the roles are really very different," he said. "You have this wonderful opportunity to make policy for 38 million Californians (as senator), and I feel I have been able to have a significant impact on a number of different levels."
Currently, Simitian serves the 11th senate district, which includes thirteen cities: Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Cupertino, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Campbell to Santa Cruz and Capitola. Santa Clara County's District 5 supervisor oversees the northern part of the county, to parts of the West Valley: Palo Alto, Los Altos, Mountain View, Los Altos Hills, Cupertino, Saratoga and Monte Sereno.
Simitian made the announcement at an annual event in Palo Alto which he calls a "community conversation." He said he usually invites a variety of experts and political insiders to discuss a compelling issue of the day. However, this time he decided to invite three former contest winners—a towtruck driver, a nurse, and a police officer—two of whom have seen their suggested laws implemented.
County residents elect the Board of Supervisors to four-year terms, up to a maximum of three terms in office. The Board convenes regularly to set policy for the County, adopt ordinances for unincorporated communities (areas outside of city jurisdictions), and oversee the budget.
That race is just beginning to take shape.
In September, Mountain View and former Saratoga mayor Kathleen King announced their decisions to run. That brings the number up to at least three people who have declared their candidacy for District 5, though last year more Mountain View councilmembers flirted with the idea of a run for County Supervisor in 2012.
In a statement, Abe-Koga said she is undeterred by the senator's entrance into the race. "I have the greatest respect for Sen. Simitian and the service he has given to the state," the former Mountain View mayor's statement read. "Joe and I have worked together in the past. I consider him a friend. And I welcome him to this race."
In addition to Simitian's previous stint as county supervisor for one term and his two terms as state Senator, the senator spent two terms in the state Assembly. Simitian was also President of the Palo Alto School Board and Mayor of the City of Palo Alto.
He outlined his desire to return to county government this way:
"Welfare, healthcare, public safety, these are all issues that the county deals with," he said. "It's very different kind of work...it's a 'roll up your sleeves and make it work' kind of a position."
One of the most pressing local issues facing the county is the state's push to move lower level criminal offenders out of state prisons and into local ones, an operation Simitian says will be a big challenge.
"I think it holds great promise, but it has to be done well and it has to be adequately funded. "
If elected, he would replace Liz Kniss—who also terms out—for the District 5 seat.