Michael Nevin, a former San Francisco police inspector who fought for the poor and dispossessed and championed treatment over punishment as a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, died Saturday of cancer. He was 69 years old.
Mr. Nevin was remembered Sunday as one of the Peninsula’s most effective leaders for his ability to bring people together with his engaging personality and intelligence.
“One of the qualities of a great leader is to have a clear vision and then be able to articulate that vision. Mike had a vision for a more caring, a more just and a more compassionate world,” said Adrienne J. Tissier, President of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. “What made him such a great leader is that he made you feel that together you could bring about such a world.”
Mr. Nevin was elected to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in 1992 after serving as a City Councilman and Mayor of Daly City. His tenure on the Board was marked by his passionate work on behalf of the poor and working class and his innovative mind.
Groundbreaking at the time, many of his initiatives are now part of public policy or the public debate.
Starting many years ago he fought for providing health care coverage for all of San Mateo County’s children, telling an audience, “It is a disgrace that San Mateo County, one the most affluent, sophisticated counties, has over 20,000 uninsured children. Whether it is in good times or bad, San Mateo County must do better for its children, and we will all work together to do so.”
And in ironic twist for a former police officer, more than a decade ago Mr. Nevin advocated that county government should provide marijuana to the seriously ill. This came after conversations with a county employee who told him that marijuana was the only drug that gave her pain relief from her cancer.
“I concluded that I could make a big contribution if I were outspoken on an issue where you wouldn’t expect a policeman to come out, while having credibility at the same time,” he told a reporter.
He worked tirelessly. After hearing of long waits and few services for those unable to hire an attorney, he convened a fact-finding hearing to investigate the condition of Family Courts in California’s justice system.
He fought to protect threatened funding for vital mental health services as well as local bus and rail service, seeing mass transportation not only as a means to reduce the number of cars on the road but as a way for people with little means to get to work.
Mr. Nevin also served as president of the California State Association of Counties, a statewide organization. His first action was to send a letter to then-President Clinton opposing a bill that would “would make things tough on local governments and the taxpayers.”
In honor of his work, the Board of Supervisors named a health center in Daly City the Mike Nevin Health Center.
“We lost a visionary leader with the passing of someone I consider a dear, dear friend,” said Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson. “Mike’s belief in public service spoke to the very core of who he was as an individual. He knew that together we could meet any challenge and raise up the entire community.”
“Mike Nevin was a great gentleman and a great leader who cared, so much, about helping people,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom.
Congresswoman Anna Eshoo said, “Mike Nevin had public service in his blood and the people he represented are better for it.”
After leaving the Board of Supervisors, Mr. Nevin served as executive director of the Service League, a nonprofit group that provides services to inmates and former inmates. The goal of the organization is to improve public safety and the entire community by rebuilding lives.
“Mike never stopped working on behalf of others. He will be missed but his legacy will live on in the inspiration that he brought to so many of us and in the many lives that he helped to transform,” President Tissier said.
Additional personal and family information, including a photograph, may be found at the website of Saint Ignatius College Preparatory.
Services are pending.