San Luis Obispo County will need to elect a new county clerk-recorder, after current Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong announced his resignation for a job in Contra Costa County.
Gong is originally from Riverbank in Stanislaus County, and just a few miles out of Modesto. His family had a grocery store while growing up. Gong left Riverbank to attend U.C. Berkeley and San Francisco State and returned to the family grocery business, though by then the family was now in Patterson, which is southwest from Riverbank on the Westside of the Central Valley.
In 2003, Gong was hired as Stanislaus County’s Elections Manager, and came to SLO County in 2005 under then Clerk-Recorder, Julie Rodewald. When she retired, Gong won the seat in 2014. He leaves a county of about 230,000 for Contra Costa County’s 1.1 million residents.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” Gong said, “and extremely fortunate for me, as I have desired to be closer to my family.”
Like many today, Gong said he needs to care for his elderly parents.
“When I moved to SLO County,” he said, “I realized that I would be moving quite a distance from my family, but my focus was on raising our young family, but now that they are grown up, my focus has shifted to my elderly parents.”
The coronavirus pandemic has been personally difficult for Gong. He hasn’t seen his parents in 1-1/2 years. “Sixteen years ago, I didn’t feel the same level of responsibility I do now for my parents and family, but now I am 16-years older.”
Gong is the only son in his family and has three sisters. Their extended family mostly live in Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, he said. Contra Costa County is located in the northeastern portion of the greater San Francisco Bay Area. The County seat is Martinez and the county includes the cities of Concord and Antioch but is mostly a suburban area.
Gong said he is leaving the department in good hands having recently filled two vacant deputy clerk positions.
“We are at full capacity, staff-wise, and I know I am leaving the office in great hands with equally committed and dedicated staff through the transition.” His last day with SLO County is July 2.
SLO County Clerk-Recorder position is an elected office and Gong said the Supervisors could appoint someone. “Appointing the County Clerk-Recorder for the remainder of the term is an option, but the County will have to weigh its options and decide what steps to take,” he said.
“I am truly grateful to San Luis Obispo County,” Gong added, “for providing me the opportunity to serve the community and hone my craft in elections and Clerk-Recorder functions. I will carry fond memories of spending almost a third of my life here.”
EBN asked Supervisor’s Chairwoman, Dist. 4’s Lynn Compton, about when they would name an interim County Clerk-Recorder and her Legislative Assistant, Caleb Mott, replied. “Because we recently learned of this, it has not been agendized. The Board of Supervisors will vote on a replacement for Mr. Gong at a future meeting. I would anticipate an item introducing the topic at a Board meeting in the near future but it would not be decided upon introduction.”
Gong was central in a “clerical error” in the 2018 Los Osos Community Services District election when he mistakenly misclassified one of the three Los Osos CSD’s seats as a 2-year term, when it should have been classified as a 4-year term.
“I recognize the impact and gravity of the mistake and deeply regret it,” he said at the time. Advertising the seat as a 2-year term during the nomination period, rather than a 4-year term, meant the appointed incumbent was unopposed and was not even listed on the ballot.The race should have been “Top-3 win,” and the mistake deprived voters from being able to choose someone for that seat.
The Supervisors voted to implement Gong’s solution, namely to throw out that portion of the election, and the LOCSD Board appointed the candidate, Christine Womack, to the seat.
In 2020, she had to run again for a 2-year term but was unopposed and so didn’t appear on the ballot.
And now she’ll have to run again in 2022, but for a 4-year term, to finally get the CSD board’s election schedule back on the right track, in a solution reached between Gong and current CSD General Manager Ron Munds.
Gong and his crew at the Election’s Office faced several challenges with the 2020 Presidential Election due to the pandemic, as many of the volunteers he relies on to staff elections declined to work in November, which was also changed to 3 days of in-person voting. He also lost many of the local precinct locations that canceled their participation because of the virus restrictions.
They also saw record turnout of some 83% and record mail-in balloting but they pulled it off without any major glitches.
Still, at a recent Supervisor’s meeting Gong was harangued by numerous citizens over perceived problems with the election and according to an article in the June 10 Tribune, that public flogging played a part in his decision to leave.