Sheriff poised to unseat Oblak on healthcare board

REDWOOD CITY — Retiring San Mateo County Sheriff Don Horsley appeared poised to unseat one incumbent on the Sequoia Healthcare District board Tuesday — but possibly not the one many hoped he would beat.

Horsley’s entry into the contest for one of three seats on the board transformed a quiet race among incumbents into one in which many were rooting for Horsley to unseat Libertarian Jack Hickey, 72. Instead, incumbent John Oblak, president of Notre de Namur University, was trailing in fourth place Tuesday night.

Hickey, president of the San Mateo County Libertarian Party, was elected to the district board four years ago with a single goal: disbanding the health care district. “I don’t think government should be involved in philanthropy,” Hickey said. “That doesn’t belong in the political arena.”

While Horsley, who steps down as sheriff at the end of the year, sympathized with that sentiment, he said he thinks the district is in a position to provide health insurance for children and families who would not otherwise have medical coverage. “I don’t think it’s an easy thing, but I think it can be done.”

Others are less sympathetic to Hickey’s ideals. For incumbent Art Faro, former CEO of Sequoia Hospital, removing Hickey from the board of directors has been a top campaign priority. Other incumbents agreed it was a good idea, since Hickey’s presence often gets in the way of other accomplishments.

“If someone’s going to spend every meeting talking about whether the board should exist, that’s a waste of everyone’s time,” Oblak, 64, said.

The Sequoia Healthcare District and its board of directors oversees a $60 million budget, much of which goes toward providing health care to children, grants to health-related community organizations and partnerships with Canada College’s nursing program and Samaritan House. They will also oversee the long-planned $130 million retrofit and reconstruction of Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City.

The district took on the additional responsibility inOctober of funding the Fair Oaks Clinic, a subsidiary of the San Mateo Medical Center, Oblak said.

In the Peninsula Health Care District, which oversees the Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame and the San Mateo Medical Center, incumbents Helen Galligan, Donald Newman and Susan Smith hung onto their seats for another four years.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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