‘Lead with compassion’: Yesenia Sanchez runs for Alameda County sheriff

Photo of Yesenia Sanchez
David Law of Wild Horse Productions/Courtesy
Yesenia Sanchez, who has worked in the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office since she was 19 years old, is running to be the county sheriff.

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A 24-year veteran of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, or ACSO, Yesenia Sanchez is running for Alameda County sheriff on a platform built on accountability and community engagement.

Born in Hayward, Sanchez joined ACSO as a technician at 19. Sanchez became a deputy sheriff in 2001 after noticing all the possibilities for change and now works as division commander at Santa Rita Jail, overseeing more than 600 staff and a budget of $270 million.

“My experience as division commander is what has driven me to make this leap to run for sheriff,” Sanchez said. “We can do better — we have to be open-minded to say, ‘that makes sense’ and change the way we do things.”

One of Sanchez’s favorite things to do is walk around and talk to staff, encouraging them to voice concerns and bring suggestions to the table. She added the relationships she has built with agency members are “key” in bringing new leadership to the sheriff’s office.

Sanchez noted that the current sheriff, Gregory Ahern, was elected to the position in 2006 and has run unopposed in every election since. Along with Sanchez and Ahern, San Francisco Police Department officer JoAnne Walker will also be running for the position.

“The county is ready for someone who can represent the community,” Sanchez said. “I know how the damaging effects of poverty and lack of resources can impact families and how that then has an impact on crime and safety.”

Having worked three jobs to help support her family at 18, Sanchez said she knows what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck and have to search for a place to stay. She believes the community can relate to her because she is able to relate to them.

Sanchez said listening to others and taking feedback would be a priority for her as sheriff. She also emphasized the need to be proactive about sharing both good and bad information with the community.

“We are public servants and we need to be accountable for the community,” Sanchez said. “We may not be able to share every piece or detail relating to an investigation, but we need to be transparent about what occurred.”

Another important priority for Sanchez is investing in the rehabilitation of the incarcerated.

Sanchez said by working with the county’s justice partners, she wants to make sure incarcerated people are put back into the community with the resources they need to get a job and stay out of jail.

“I’ve always treated people with respect, whether I was providing comfort to a victim or whether I was taking someone into custody,” Sanchez said. “That is my goal: to shift the culture of the sheriff’s office so that we can lead with compassion and humanity.”

Contact Vani Suresh at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @vanisuresh_.