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Charles Prelsnik already had a distinguished career as an FBI agent before joining the Sheriff's Office in 1963.
Sheriff Prelsnik was born on May 8, 1911, in Butte, Montana. In 1928 Charles came to California to attend Stanford University on a football scholarship. He played tackle for the Stanford Indians under the legendary coach Pop Warner. Eventually he earned a degree in political science, graduating in 1933.
Over the next nine years, Charles worked a variety of jobs. Including advertising, investments and as a security officer for the Shell Oil Company in San Francisco. In 1942, he became a Special Agent for the FBI. During World War II worked in counterespionage and other security programs in Chicago, Des Moines, Salt Lake City and San Francisco. He was assigned as the resident agent for the San Jose office in 1949. He also served as a gunnery instructor in the FBI's training program.
In May of 1963, after 21 years with the FBI, Charles retired and 30 minutes later was sworn in as Under Sheriff by Sheriff John Gibbons. Three years later in 1966 Sheriff Gibbons retired. On January 3, 1966, Charles Prelsnik was sworn in as the 24th Sheriff of Santa Clara County. Later that same year, Prelsnik ran unopposed in the election for the Sheriff. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, Stanford University had it's problems with student unrest and rioting. Sheriff Prelsnik was proud of his crowd control unit, and after a particular riot at Stanford commented; " We handled it well, nothing got way out of hand. Students came up to me many times and said they were impressed by the decorum of our officers. Despite the cat calling, they kept their cool ". As Sheriff, he was instrumental in the installation of metal detectors at San Jose Airport in 1968.
Sheriff Prelsnik decided not to run for re-election in the 1970 race, and instead threw his support behind his Under Sheriff James Geary. After retirement from the Sheriff's Office, he worked as a security consultant for the Bank Of America, as well as a volunteer for organizations such as Friends Outside.
Charles Prelsnik died in San Jose Hospital on March 20, 1993, after complications from heart surgery.
San Jose Mercury, March 2,1993, January 10,1971, and March 2,1966.
San Jose News, July 31,1968.