News - May 11, 2011

Election 2011: Dave Pine has been around the block

• New supervisor is old hand at politics.

by Dave Boyce

Dave Pine, a former corporate attorney and a longtime part-time politician — he held elected office at age 19 — beat out five other candidates for a seat on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in the May 3 election, but it was not a walk in the park.

"It certainly doesn't get much tougher than this one. I feel very fortunate," Mr. Pine told the Almanac, referring to the narrow margins by which he bested candidates Richard Holober and Gina Papan.

The month-long, all-mail election ended May 3. The turnout for the county-wide election was 26 percent of the 341,303 registered voters.

Mr. Pine received 23,856 votes, or 27.8 percent of the total, followed closely by Richard Holober with 22,300 and Gina Papan with 21,796. Because it is a special election, there is no runoff.

Of the other candidates, Terry Nagel ended up with 8,683, Michael Stogner with 6,269, and Demetrios Nikas with 2,870.

The supervisor's seat for District 1, the northern part of the county, was vacated by Mark Church, who in November 2010 was elected chief elections officer, assessor and recorder.

Mr. Pine's annual salary will be around $130,000, he said. He will finish the 19 months left in Mr. Church's four-year term. The next election for District 1 is a primary in June 2012. Will he run again?

"I think this is really one of the best elected positions you can hold," Mr. Pine said. "It's very, very important work for an awful lot of people and it's very challenging. ... I feel strongly about and very committed to spending the next 12 years working to make a difference."

Who is Dave Pine?

At the age of 52, Mr. Pine's career can be summed up as 18 years as a corporate attorney sandwiched in between stints in elected office.

At 19, he began a two-year term in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. A small fish in a big legislative pond in a small state, he said. New Hampshire today has a population of 1.3 million and a House of 400 members — one for every 3,250 people, according to the secretary of state's office. In the California state Assembly, the ratio is 1:400,000.

Mr. Pine's legal career started with five years as a corporate attorney for Palo Alto-based Fenwick & West, an online biography says. His next three positions were as vice president and general counsel: at Radius Inc., Excite@Home and Handspring Inc., all located in the Bay Area.

Stock options allowed him to retire in 2003, when he was elected to the board of the Burlingame School District. In 2007, he ran for and won a seat on the board of the San Mateo Union High School district.

Independent voice

San Mateo County is facing a deficit of as much as $80 million for the budget year that begins July 1. Mr. Pine's admits that his influence may be marginal this time around, but he is maintaining assertions that change must come to county government.

Among his concerns: the ratio of county managers to employees, said to be higher than in neighboring counties, and the comparatively generous use of county vehicles by employees.

(Go to to examine Mr. Pine's position papers.)

County management defends the management-employee ratio as not as out of balance as it seems, Mr. Pine said. "I will spend quite a bit of time to get a complete understanding of this," he said. "There seems to be some strong evidence that the management (population) is too big."

As for county vehicles, a 2010 grand jury report said that spending should be cut. County Manager David Boesch, in a December 2010 memo to the Board of Supervisors, wrote that such cuts are "not the answer to solving the structural budget deficit problem."

The savings may be modest, Mr. Pine told the Almanac, but belt-tightening of this kind would send a "powerful message to the entire organization to make sure people realize that we are in very different times."

The priorities need to be examined, he said, if sheriff's deputies are due for a raise while spending on youths are in line for cuts. "I'm the new guy on the block (but) I want to challenge that," he said. "My record in public service is very much one of an independent voice."

Independent financing

In claiming an independent voice and trying to get the attention of 341,000 voters, it helps to have one's own resources. Mr. Pine said he spent $565,000 on his campaign, supported in large part by corporate stock options that allowed him to use $435,000 of his own money.

The other $130,000 came from 400 donors, Mr. Pine said, including $2,200 from unions representing electricians and the building trades.

In 57 of California's 58 counties, supervisors are elected by residents of their districts. San Mateo County is alone in requiring supervisors to run county-wide. Such at-large elections inculcate a broad perspective, its defenders say.

In 2010, a committee of volunteers reviewing the county's charter recommended that voters weigh in on at-large elections, but in July, four of the five supervisors chose to not put the question on the ballot.

Mr. Pine, a member of the review committee, voted not only to give voters a voice in this but recommended switching to by-district elections.

"I'm probably the most outspoken advocate for by-district elections in the county," he said, but added that he would need two more supervisors to agree with him.

A lawsuit to overturn the board's decision was filed by the Bay Area chapter of the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights.


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