On a split vote, Carlos Bolanos was appointed sheriff by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors Tuesday to fill out the term of Greg Munks, who is retiring because of health reasons.
Bolanos, the current undersheriff, takes over the sheriff’s job July 17.
The board was faced with either appointing a replacement for Munks or calling an election for this November’s ballot to give the public a chance to choose the county’s next top cop.
Before the vote, however, officials with the offices of U.S. reps. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, and Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, read a letter to the board urging a more transparent process.
The letter spoke of rumors about Munks retiring early so that Bolanos could be swept into the office.
Munks announced last year that he would not seek re-election in 2018 and Bolanos announced his candidacy for the position shortly after.
A November election, according to Speier and Eshoo, would also not be fair to other potential candidates since it is only 109 days away.
They urged the board to interview many candidates for the job before naming a replacement to show an “absence of a pre-ordained outcome.”
The board voted 3-2 in support of Bolanos with supervisors Carole Groom and Dave Pine voting against his appointment.
“An election is a better choice to go. It creates a sense of legitimacy,” Groom said.
Pine leaned toward also letting other candidates apply for the job as the congresswomen suggested and said an election would be the best route to go typically.
He said the board could call a special election in March to give other candidates more time to prepare brisk campaigns. That would come at a cost of about $500,000, however.
But there are currently no other candidates seeking to run for sheriff. San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer expressed an early interest but announced recently she would not run for the job.
Supervisors Slocum, Tissier and Horsley all enthusiastically supported the appointment of Bolanos.
Horsley, former sheriff himself, said it was unnecessary to conduct a nationwide search to find a new sheriff.
“Carlos has done an outstanding job,” Horsley said.
The Sheriff’s Office has done well in recent years in recruiting more women and minorities to the force and in providing community policing in Millbrae, San Carlos and Half Moon Bay, Horsley said.
Tissier said appointing Bolanos to the position brings immediate stability to the department.
Board President Slocum said Bolanos has a proven commitment to community policing as the Sheriff’s Office also patrols North Fair Oaks and other unincorporated areas of the county.
“We know what we are getting with Bolanos,” Slocum said.
In a prepared statement, Bolanos said he was honored by the appointment and thanked the board for their trust.
“I will continue to ensure that we have a safe county for residents and visitors, and that the Sheriff’s Office not only maintains — but strives to improve — the outstanding relationships we have with the communities we serve,” Bolanos said.
Horsley also praised Munks for his work as sheriff and wished him good health. The two worked alongside each other for more than 13 years.
Munks is currently on medical leave. He had a third heart procedure Monday.
He said when he announced his retirement two weeks ago that the condition is not life-threatening but has affected his work duties.
Munks was elected sheriff in June 2006 after serving nearly 14 years as undersheriff. Voters re-elected Munks twice. Bolanos has served as undersheriff for nine years and was the chief of police in Redwood City for 12 years prior to that.
In 2007, Munks ran into some controversy after he was briefly detained at a massage parlor, with Bolanos outside, during a Las Vegas police sting labeled “Operation Dollhouse.” Neither were ever charged and Munks later admitted though he thought it was a legitimate business, it was not.