Voters in Santa Clara Heavily Favor Electing Police Chief and City Clerk

City of Santa Clara voters are overwhelmingly supporting keeping the city’s unique method of electing – rather than appointing – their police chief and city clerk.

With about half the votes tallied at the close of day Tuesday, voters were rejecting a ballot measure to appoint, rather than elect, a city clerk by more than two to one, 6,672 No votes to 3,251 Yes votes.

By an even bigger margin, 7,267 to 2,778, Santa Clara voters were rejecting a similar proposal to appoint, rather than elect, the city police chief.

No other city in California except Santa Clara still has an elected police chief. Less than 20% of the municipalities in the state have an elected city clerk.

If approved, the measures would hold the city clerk and police chief to the same standards as other city department heads, as appointed positions hired by and accountable to the city manager, and subject to annual evaluations.

Because of the wide margins in preliminary, incomplete and unofficial returns Tuesday, the city’s police chief and city clerk are likely to continue to stand for election every four years. Only city residents can run for the jobs.

The current police chief, Patrick Nikolai, was elected in 2020. In 2021, he received $524,000 in pay and benefits, at the time the seventh highest compensated police chief in the state.


  1. No other city in California has a city council that has been taken over by a billionaire NFL owner. This election was more about taking back control by the residents than it was about the way a police chief is chosen.

  2. I thought all Sheriffs were elected; Chiefs of Police are basically the enforcement arm of the Mayor…

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