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Charles Gillingham was the 27th Sheriff to hold office in the history of Santa Clara County. Appointed to the Office of Sheriff by the Board of Supervisors on August 30, 1989, he soon gained the endorsement of the voters by winning the election to the office in November of 1990. Sheriff Gillingham was re-elected by the voters to a second, four year term in June of 1994.
During his first term, Gillingham spent much of his time promoting and finally getting approval for a new Headquarters office. Procurement of new equipment, hand radios, cars and automatic pistols were major milestones. Sheriff Chuck Gillingham has acted to expand and modernize the law enforcement services his department provides in one of California's fastest growing regions. The crime rate in Santa Clara County is one of the states lowest.
The son and brother of police officers, Chuck Gillingham has served the department for 28 years. Before joining the Sheriff's Office, Gillingham was a Juvenile Probation Counselor.
His earlier years in the department saw Gillingham assigned as a Patrol Deputy, Narcotics Investigator, Jail Supervisor and Homicide Sergeant. As a Homicide Detective in 1978, Gillingham and his partner worked on 12 of the 14 murders handled by the Sheriff's Office that year; they solved all 12.
Gillingham's 1979 promotion to the rank of Lieutenant signaled the start of a successful career as a police administrator. He earned another advancement in 1986 to the rank of Captain. As a Division Commander, he managed the Elmwood Jail Facility and oversaw programs affecting 3,000 prisoner with an annual budget of $30 million.
Shortly after he was named Sheriff, Gillingham began working to "solve long-standing problems caused by neglect and the failure to be creative and innovative using existing resources" within the 500 person department. Gillingham put an immediate end to the political warfare that marred relations between his predecessor and County Supervisors. The Sheriff re-organized his office’s top management and implemented strategic planning.
He moved to update facilities and equipment, introduced modern law enforcement technology, upgraded officer training, improved affirmative action, increased community programs, beefed up court security, raised ethical standards, strengthened law enforcement protection, started drug and gang prevention education in local schools and cracked down on narcotics offenders by seizing autos and other property used in the commission of drug offenses. He also started expansion of the Sheriff's Volunteer Reserve Unit, Technical Auxiliary, Mounted Reserve and established a department Chaplancy program.
Chuck Gillingham earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from California State University, San Jose. His wife, Holly, is a County Probation Officer. The Gillingham's have two children, Chuck Jr., who recently graduated from the University of Santa Clara Law School and now serves the people of Santa Clara County as a Deputy District Attorney and a daughter Jill, who graduated from Northeastern University and now lives in the Boston area.