Top Santa Clara County executive leading COVID-19 response leaving
David Campos, a deputy county executive for Santa Clara County, speaks with his staff in 2019. Photo by Kyle Martin.

One of Santa Clara County’s top leaders and the face of its coronavirus response is leaving for a neighboring city.

Deputy Executive David Campos, who also led the county’s social justice and equity programs, is joining the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office as Chief of Staff.

Campos, a Guatemalan immigrant, sought to bring equity to underserved communities during his three years working in Santa Clara County.

“Since I came here, if anything, my responsibilities have grown in terms of what I’m doing,” Campos told San José Spotlight. “And obviously, most recently, helping to be part of the COVID response has been really critical and important and a great honor. Santa Clara County is leading in so many ways.”

But Campos said he wants to shift his focus to criminal justice reform in San Francisco where he lives. Campos also served as a San Francisco County Supervisor from 2008-2016 and leads the city’s Democratic Party.

“It’s been a great experience but having such a long commute can be a challenge,” Campos said. “So I think it just made sense in light of the opportunity and what it meant for for my family.”

Looking back, he says the seven offices within the county’s division of social justice and equity made it possible to use a racial and social justice lens while responding to coronavirus.

Campos led those seven offices tasked with ensuring county policies are inclusive and achieve social justice and equity, including the Office of Women’s Policy, Office of Immigrant Relations and Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

During the pandemic, the deputy executive also served as the top public information officer for the county.

Campos and his team at the Emergency Operations Center ran websites in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Tagalog. He often appeared in the county Health Department’s live Facebook briefings, interviewing Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody and translating important messages about the COVID-19 spread and response for Spanish speakers.

He said coordinating a multilingual communications campaign for the COVID-19 response was essential to ensure every community in Santa Clara County had access to information they could understand.

“I think COVID did not create any of the inequities for disparities within our county but it certainly highlighted them,” Campos said.

Developing multilingual community outreach boosted the county’s census response rates as well, Campos said.

“The census ranks counties by how difficult they are to count based on diversity. The more diversity because people speak more languages, the more challenging,” Campos said. “We were the ninth hardest county to count in the country and yet, right now, we’re going through the census we have the second highest response rate of any county in the state of California and we already surpassed the response from 2010, even though we’re in the middle of a pandemic.”

When Campos started work in Santa Clara County, he said the county — more than twice as populated as San Francisco — needed to improve its contact with more diverse communities.

“In San Francisco oftentimes you hear from these diverse communities and, in fact, I have to say, it’s harder to get things done because there are so many people, so many players,” he said. “There are times in Santa Clara (County) when you don’t hear from some of those communities, so part of it was to reach out to them in a way that hadn’t been done before.”

With support from Santa Clara County‘s Board of Supervisors, Campos and his team launched many projects to serve people overlooked.

For example, Santa Clara County constructed its first LGBTQ+ homeless shelter and a gender clinic for transgender residents during Campos’ tenure. Campos himself is a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Campos said he intends to use what he’s learned in Santa Clara County in his new role in San Francisco.

“I do think that San Francisco has lessons on things that can be learned from Santa Clara (County), because there are so many parts of this county that are better run than San Francisco,” Campos said. “That’s something that I take back to San Francisco, lessons to be learned that can be useful to that city.”

Contact Mauricio La Plante at [email protected] or follow @mslaplantenews on Twitter.

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